WCO Conference on technology kicks off in Baku

Around 900 delegates from almost 90 countries, representing the public and private sector, academia and international organizations, gathered in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday 12 June 2019 to attend the WCO IT/TI Conference and Exhibition, a three-day event that will  discuss implementation of technologies and its related challenges and opportunities. The event is being co-hosted by the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan, with the support of the Korea Customs Service (KCS) and private sector companies, including the Corporate sponsor of the event, Rapiscan/AS&E/S2Global.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Novruz Mammadov, opened the Conference and addressed the participants on behalf of the the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev. In his address, he reiterated the importance of technologies as a key driver of the country’s economic development. The Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan, Mr. Safar Mehdiyev, shared some of the achievements and benefits of implementing electronic services and automating all Customs procedures.

The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomed the participants and explained that this event merged, for the first time, two WCO flagship events: the IT Conference and Exhibition and the Technology and Innovation Forum, into one overarching forum celebrating technologies. The WCO theme for this event, “New technologies for SMART borders – New opportunities for Trade, Travel and Transport”, calls on the Organization’s Members to explore how Customs can fully exploit the most recent, as well as some well-established technological solutions, to support not only trade, but also travel and transport, ensuring that all movements across borders are not only seamless, but also secure.

Later during the day, the WCO Secretary General met with President Aliyev, who reaffirmed his government’s commitment to leveraging on technology and paving the way towards digital transformation. Secretary General Mikuriya expressed WCO’s support to initiatives geared towards enhancing trade facilitation and improving customs performace.

During the next two days of the Conference, participants will look at lessons learnt from the latest pilot projects and initiatives deploying technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, facial recognition, machine learning and blockchains.

Among new topics discussed this year is how Customs can support efforts made by carriers and logistics companies towards greener, safer climate solutions with lower CO2 emissions by leveraging information collected through smart devices.

Innovations in the transport industry such as self-driving trucks, smart containers and Virgin Hyperloop One will also be looked at with a view to identify the implications for border processes and procedures in the future. Customs and government representatives will also have the opportunity to talk directly to service providers exhibiting at the Conference to receive more detailed information about the latest technological solutions available on the market, test devices displayed and discuss their needs and constraints.

The WCO hopes that the event will prove to be a useful tool to further enhance the conversation between Customs and technology provider representatives, and take another step forward in the implementation of technologies.