Smart Customs enable UAE economy
Dubai Customs ensures safe, smooth and smart trade through the emirate’s ports and airports
International trade has long underpinned Dubai’s success story, and Dubai Customs has played a pivotal role in facilitating trade and travel procedures while ensuring the safety of the country’s borders.
Dubai Customs has been a leader in the adoption of technology for customs processes, and today its smart projects and services are covering many different areas of operations to make customs faster, more efficient and more cost effective.
.GOV spoke to Ahmed Mahboub Musabih, Director of Dubai Customs, to learn more about these smart services and the organisation’s role in enabling the ongoing growth of Dubai’s economy.
What is the Smart Workspace, and how was it developed?
The Smart Workspace is a unique initiative for a key core business which is cargo clearance. The Smart Workspace is a platform that turns traditional online services into smart services through restructuring of supply chain related applications. The workspace provides a number of smart options to the clients and helps reduce their time and cost whilst increasing customs declarations transactions. The new workspace reduces the time needed to do a declaration to only 4-5 minutes compared to 20-40 minutes. To companies, this means 1.4m work hours and AED 68m saved annually.
Before applying the new Smart Workspace declarations had consumed an average of 1.76 million man-hours annually and now, using the new smart platform, the number is reduced to only 360,000 man-hours; which means a five-fold reduction.
The Smart Workspace helped raise happiness level about customs declarations to 96.7% and customs services to 96.5% in November 2016.
The future plan is to link the Smart Workspace online with a number of relevant government departments to facilitate the process even further. These departments include Dubai Trade, DP World, Dubai Municipality, Department of Economic Development, Dubai Chamber, and RTA.
What is the Smart Virtual Agent?
The Smart Virtual Agent initiative was showcased by Dubai Customs at GITEX 2016. It is a smart channel for communication with customers, to attend to their queries about Customs services, procedures and regulations. The Smart Virtual Agent is an intelligent tool which operates 24/7 without the need for any physical employee. This self-improving platform uses Dubai Customs’ updated database and records similar cases to answer customer inquiries.
The Smart Virtual Agent reduces customer support cost by answering frequent queries without requiring support staff physical intervention, which helps efficiently redirect resources to other duties.
During GITEX 2016, Dubai Customs displayed ‘smart inspection glasses’. What are they and how were they developed?
This cutting-edge technology makes container inspections at customs checkpoints quicker and easier. The glasses are running a new application which connects to three different sections of Dubai Customs, to provide information direct to the inspector. The glasses instantly display the container’s customs declaration, as well as its risk assessment and x-ray images on a one-stop screen, and accordingly help inspectors take proper measures. The glasses have cut clearance times from two days to just minutes.
How is Dubai Customs contributing to Smart Dubai?
Dubai Customs effectively takes part in any plan aimed at turning Dubai into the smartest city in the world. This is done through developing and using the latest smart applications and upgrading of customs services to save time and effort needed in cargo clearance and inspection.
Do you have any plans for air passengers and cargo?
Dubai Customs has launched a number of developments and expansions in Terminals One and Three which included the CCTV operation center, the BHS customs monitor and control center, and a new staff lounge. These developments will help facilitate the passengers’ travel experience. The Luggage Smart Customs Inspection System, for example, is the first fully integrated inspection system in the world.
Dubai Customs has also launched the Smart Customs Route which is a smart interactive LED flooring that directs inbound passengers — as they enter the Customs area — to either go to luggage inspection (red route) or head to the exit (green route).
Additionally, we launched the Elderly & VIP Clearance Buggy which helps the elderly, people with special needs, and VIPs get their documents cleared faster and easier. The buggy is equipped with all devices and tools needed to help carry out clearance of documents. The innovation won Ideas UK’s 2016 customer service category award.
What other smart projects are underway with Dubai Customs?
We have launched the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Program which was implemented under the umbrella of the Federal Customs Authority. AEO is a voluntary program that recognizes trusted partners and provide them with exclusive benefits. The system facilitates world trade and delivers a comprehensive set of benefits to certified partners including faster clearance, preferential customs treatment and a dedicated Key Account Manager.
How does dubai customs work with other customs organisations?
Dubai Customs has effectively developed customs work at regional and international levels, in cooperation and coordination with the World Customs Organization. The Department has also supported the GCC Customs Union for GCC States and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area. Knowing the importance of trade nowadays, we will keep supporting Dubai as a regional and an international hub that provides distinctive services and facilitations to clients, investors and companies.
How do you encourage innovation and start smart ideas and projects?
Dubai Customs provides a work environment that incubates innovation. The human capital is the biggest asset at the Department, and for this we take care of our people and always drive them to come up with more innovations and ideas.
For this, Dubai Customs has set up an innovation center, which uses a comprehensive strategy and plans to instill innovation as an integral part of Dubai Customs culture. There are a lot of activities and initiatives to encourage employees to think out of the box and come up with exceptional ideas. These activities and initiatives motivate employees such as appreciation letters, provision of relevant training courses and participation in innovation events and awards.
In 2016, Dubai Customs has won a number of awards which included the first place on the Smart Dubai Office’s Happiness Meter with a rating of 95%, plus the Distinguished Medium Government Entity 2016 Award in addition to other four awards from Dubai Government Excellence Program, three awards from Ideas UK and six awards from Ideas America 2016.