Overview: Border Crossing Delays

The import, export and transit of goods and the means of transporting them are subject to national and international regulations. Compliance with these regulations is checked and enforced when the goods arrive in the country of transit or destination. In most countries this is at border crossings or stations close to the geographical boundary of the country.

Traders, their representatives and drivers therefore have to undertake multiple formalities at border crossings to release and clear the goods. This can be a lengthy or speedy process depending on the organization of the border crossing, the procedures in place, and the management of the formalities. Delays are common and pictures of long lines of waiting trucks have become a symbol of trade barriers, in particular in developing countries in Africa. Waiting times at border stations are used as a common indicator for trade facilitation performance . The waiting times significantly harm transit traffic and cross-border trade. They cause unpredictable delivery times for traders and make it difficult to participate in a time-sensitive logistics chain for the producer and cargo owners. They also increase the time the seller has to wait for payment, and create direct costs for leasing the means of transport, and for warehouse fees. The faster and more predictable the release process, the better the trader can plan, manage and optimize supply chains.

Need for cooperation

Processes at border crossings involve various agencies. Not only Customs but also multiple agencies are present to conduct their controls. There are at least three categories of agencies that are present: Customs, immigration, and other governmental control agencies, such as health, agriculture and environmental services. Coordination amongst them is therefore the key to reducing waiting times at border crossings by integrating processes and coordinating interventions on goods. This cooperation amongst agencies ideally also extends to the administrations across the border to enable alignment of office hours or the sharing of infrastructure and equipment.

Measures to reduce waiting times

Other solutions that can help reduce the time necessary for release of goods at border crossings can impact the organization of checking the shipments. Risk management and the use of non-intrusive technologies can significantly reduce the time for physical inspections. Duplication of interventions by agencies create unnecessary waiting. Therefore agencies should coordinate their interventions to avoid this. Other measures that have an impact on the release time at border crossings are: pre-arrival processing; the use of electronic payment for duties and taxes; possibilities for deferred payment; and authorized traders schemes that offer privileges for trusted traders (such as clearance at traders' premises). De minimis regimes also allow administrations to speed up the release of non-dutiable or low-value shipments and offer immediate release upon presentation of commercial documents. Customs can then allow immediate release and reduce waiting times at the border.

Facilitation of transit traffic

A large part of the traffic at border crossings in landlocked countries is in transit. Bilateral, regional or multilateral agreements can provide a transit system/regime that facilitates Customs transit procedures and transport-related aspects. Bilateral transit and transport agreements also regulate many aspects of cross-border operations and are therefore important in facilitating transit and speeding up border passage for goods and vehicles in transit.