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Single Windows for Customs & Global Trade: How can Businesses Really Benefit?

Arne Mielken, Managing Director of Customs Manager Ltd., spoke at a UN Webinar on “Advancing the Single Window Development: latest trends and implications”. Read his speech and find out more about Single Window Initiatives. Review the comments he made

The webinar, which took place on 10 May 2023, looked into the very essence of Single Window developments with a wide array of high-profile speakers. We are delighted to be included.

Essential Information

What is a Single Window for Trade and Customs?

Single Window (SW) electronic facilities often allow parties involved in international trade and transportation to submit all the information necessary to fulfil trade-related regulatory duties simultaneously and at a single-entry point.

In a nutshell – what benefits?

Thanks to this digital trade facilitation project, it is claimed that traders will have less paperwork to complete for import, export, and transit-related transactions.

Who backs Single Windows for Trade and Customs?

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, which went into force in February 2017, contains SW-specific components.

Arne's Main Points

Here is what Arne Mielken said:

20 years in Customs & Global Trade

“My name is Arne Mielken, a trade specialist and a customs geek. Everything about Customs excites me, so I am delighted to be with you. I have been a proud member of the global trade community for 20 years, working with a wide range of businesses, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, shipping lines, tax advisors and consultants. I am based in London, UK.

Trade friction, red tape and duplications are "killers" of modern global trade

I have been a member of the "Trade Contact Group" of DG TAXUD of the European Commission representing the European Ship Suppliers Association, a group of "just in time" companies that need quick access to seagoing vessels – trade friction, red tape and duplications are "killers" of modern ship supply.

The same can be said for all the clients I represent, of a wide range of industries and any size, from micro-enterprises to SMEs and large and complex companies located worldwide.

Structured Customs - Trade Consultations

The Trade Contact Group in the European Commission provides a platform for trade consultations at the European Union level on the development and implementation of customs-related issues and products of customs policy, including the latest initiative, the EU Customs Environment for a Single Window.

The ship suppliers of Europe, the EU Business community, trade associations, and my clients are excited and thankful to all the customs authorities and governments for their commitment to making the Single Window a reality.

I am grateful to the UN, the ICC and the WCO for relentlessly pushing the Single Window Agenda.

Needs, Wants and Action as regards the Single Window for Customs & Global Trade

The brief I was given is to please, make a "substantive" contribution to what the global business community

  • needs and

  • wants

  • and will do

as regards the Single Window.

I am also to comment on the presentations we have heard.

I will try my best. However, all depends on numerous factors, like where the business is and what sector it operates in, trade volumes and many other factors. So, I will do my best to consult my TCG members, the ship supply community, and clients.

How can Businesses Really Benefit?

What Do Businesses Need To Do To Leverage the Opportunities?

I'll focus on two key questions

  • How can Businesses Really Benefit?

  • What Do Businesses Need To Do To Leverage the Opportunities?

Please forgive me that I will be pretty high level.

First comments on the two presentations.

Maritime Single Window Environment

We want to work closely with the IMO, BIMCo and the shipping community on the Maritime single window Environment and data harmonisation efforts.

EU Single Window Environment for Customs

Thank you for this comprehensive state of play on the EU Single Window Customs Environment. I am creating a digital cooperation framework, not a new system. My following remarks are directly related and apply to the EU Single Window Initiative, too.

Let me turn to the presentation now. Download it here.

How can Businesses Really Benefit?

Businesses will benefit from Single Windows when they are user-centric and have genuine trade facilitation as their key objective.

This means (at least):

  • Cost-Savings: Commercial Data Only – No More Separate Customs Declarations

  • "API first" approach – Grab data directly from the user

  • Efficiency: "Tell Me Once into One System" Approach

  • Facilitating Compliance:" Captain on the Bridge" – Visibility

  • Efficiency: "One Place for All" - Licences, Permits, and Authorisation

  • International Interoperability

This is more important than ever when the costs of trading globally are spiralling out of control, and geopolitical tensions are rising.

What Do Businesses Need To Do To Leverage the Opportunities?

We recognize that businesses also have their homework to do. Here are six recommendations that businesses need to do to prepare for Single Window systems worldwide and leverage the opportunities from day one:

  1. Carry out a Supply Chain Deep Dive – Map Commercial & Financial Flows

  2. Determine Customs requirements (systems, licences, authorisations, registrations etc.)

  3. Study the Single Window Initiative of the Countries You Are Operating In – List Requirements and Timetable

  4. Create a “Single Window” Working Group in Your Company (IT, Customs, Supply Chain Opps, import & export and quality departments etc.)

  5. Understand the company’s internal IT systems and how they can be brought together

  6. Develop an integrated data strategy based on the ATC Model: “Accurate, Timely and Complete.” This means

    • Data Gap Analysis (what information is missing or incomplete?)

    • Data cleansing exercise (what legacy data is outdated?)

    • Processes and Procedures to ensure data integrity and correctness at any time.

    • Customs Systems: Programme Compliance Logic or Purchase Trade Compliance Software (or design user rules)

    • Source Data: How to make sure it is correct?

    • How to connect to various internal and external sources?

    • How to share data with Customs?


Businesses benefit from Single Windows when they are user-centric and have genuine trade facilitation as their key objective. To leverage the opportunities, businesses must map commercial & financial flows, determine customs requirements, create a "Single Window" Working Group, understand their internal IT systems, and develop an integrated data strategy based on the ATC Model”.


In the ever-evolving landscape of single-window expansion, two recent developments will substantially impact the trading environment of ports and the EU.

The first is the adoption of amendments to the Facilitation (FAL) Convention under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Facilitation Committee. This game-changing decision will make the single window for data exchange a mandatory requirement in ports worldwide, fuelling a rapid acceleration of digitalization in shipping. The amendments are set to come into force on January 1, 2024.

The second development is the establishment of the EU Single Window Environment for Customs, which entered into EU law in December 2022 after nearly a decade of pilot projects and almost four years of preparations and negotiations. This regulation would enable trading within the EU through its legal framework, designed to dramatically improve information sharing and digital cooperation among customs administrations and government authorities. By streamlining the enforcement of non-customs formalities at the EU border in crucial areas such as health and safety, environmental protection, food and product safety, and agriculture, this initiative will empower economic operators to clear specific customs formalities with unprecedented ease.

About the webinar series on accelerating cross-border paperless trade facilitation

To help the region move forward in accelerating trade digitalization, ESCAP, in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and with the support of the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade and Transport in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT), organizes a webinar series on accelerating cross-border paperless trade facilitation.

The webinar series, comprising several independent webinars, covers emerging issues and trends related to the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade, including digitalized exchange of import and export supporting documents, intelligent information sharing, use of advanced technologies for procedural harmonization and simplification, enhanced private-public sector cooperation under digital trade environment, etc.

Please access all previous webinars here:

Download the Slides of the Presentation

Watch our Essential Webinar on the EU Single Window Environment for Customs (5 January 2023)

Download Essential Briefing

Important Links

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