The characteristics of a Single Window

Ideal concept of one national Single Window

Single Windows are platforms that are government mandated and allow for the submission of information to fulfill regulatory requirements between economic operators and government authorities. A Single Window is a single-entry point for data, and data should only be submitted once.
In an ideal conception and design there would be only one national Single Window – for trade purposes - conform to the definition of a Single Window as being the single-entry point. The reality however looks different.

Co-existence of Single Windows in national economies

Existing Single Windows often only support a specific part of all import, export and transit relevant formalities. In fact, several Single Windows, each serving different regulatory functions, often co-exist. Terminologies such as customs Single Window, logistics Single Window, or Port Community System imply a specific functional coverage of a Single Window either from an agency perspective, or, if referred to as Single Window for maritime carriers or importers and exporters, from a user perspective.

Despite the co-existence of Single Windows that has emerged in many countries, the regulator should ensure that economic operators only have to communicate with one Single Window according to their operational role such as a maritime carrier or importer.

Other collaborative platforms

Other collaborative platforms, in particular for B2B and G2G data exchange exists, but should ideally not be referred to or marketed as Single Window, according to the UNCEFACT Technical Note on Terminology of Single Widow and other electronic platforms. Such platforms do include Port or Cargo Community Systems, Trade information portals, or one stop border posts, as well as initiatives such as the IPPC led development of a global architecture for the exchange of the e-phytosanitary certificate.

National and regional Single Windows

A Single Window is referred to as a national Single Window if the services are limited to nation-wide procedures and authorities. The exchange of data takes place within the national internet domain.
A regional Single Window can refer to either an exchange of data between National Single, systems that provide functionalities related to regional regulatory procedures, or the replacement of a national Single Window by a regional Single Window.

ASEAN was the first regional economic community to conceptualize a regional Single Window Project. Others have followed: The EU wide Single Window initiative of the Directorate-General Taxation and the EU Maritime Single Window of the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport; the Eurasian Economic Community Single Window initiative.