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Government to trial new border tech

The software, which the government hopes will make it easier for border staff to identify what is inside the container, will be tested in the New Year as part of plans to ‘cut red tape’ for UK exporters

The government will trial new software at the UK border, aiming to make it easier for border staff to identify the contents of containers.

The plans for the software comes following trials, using smart seals that are able to detect unauthorised access to freight, and smart containers which transmit real-time data, such as temperature changes. The trials found that by using the data, border staff could reduce the time spent on determining which goods to check.

Speaking at the London Chamber of Commerce today (5 December), Cabinet Office minister of state Lucy Neville-Rolfe said the government is now going further, trialling new software and technologies to reduce delays at the border, as well as improving the way the UK imports and exports goods.

“Technological and software innovations will make our border unmatched by the rest of the world,” she said. “Industry is an essential part of the picture, which is why we will continue to work with companies to ensure our trading infrastructure supports them and enables the UK to trade in a safer and more strategic way.”

In August 2023, the government published an updated Border Target Operating model, focused on making smart use of data and technology to make trading more efficient, including removing duplication and reducing the amount of data and paperwork needed.

This includes the introduction of a Single Trade Window (STW), which will underpin the government’s digital approach to controls. The STW system will essentially be a single digital gateway where users will be able to provide the data needed to trade, as well as being able to apply for licences and authorisations for trusted trader schemes. The aim is for the STW to be fully operational by 2027.

The government is currently working with industry partners Deloitte and IBM on the STW, which, according to the government, could reduce financial burdens for business by around a billion pounds in the first three years of operation.

Read more about the government and border technology

  • The model aims to make smarter use of data and technology at the border, including a digital gateway for users to provide data and apply for licences and authorisations.
  • Home secretary’s plans for immigration reform include border crossing technology, online immigration status service and electronic travel authorisation system.
  • BAE Systems wins three-year contract worth £38m to help Home Office develop Cerberus, a project to secure UK borders through advanced data systems and analytics.

The system will also bring together other border services, and provide features such as applying for and managing licences to trade.

While the Cabinet Office is leading on the development of the system, it’s a cross-government programme, with more than 25 government departments involved, and HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for the delivery.

The first strategic release, which will be made available before October 2024, aims to offer users the ability to make entry summary declarations for safety, security and customs import declarations, and enable the collection and reuse of pre-submitted data on behalf of traders. It will also allow users to take advantage of integration with the Goods Vehicle Movement Service.

The government is also continuing with improvements to system migration programmes, such as bringing users onto the Customs Declaration Service, which is replacing the old Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief) system.

Chief was originally due to be turned off in March 2020, but the system has continued to be used as part of a dual approach that was scaled up to handle an increased volume of declarations.

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