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In Implementation
Cambodia, Sri Lanka

Digitising Global Maritime Trade


International trade is constantly growing. While the number of shipments increases every year, the capacity at the borders remains fairly the same. This puts a burden on customs and ports. Currently, the clearance processes in Cambodia and Sri Lanka rely mostly on paper documents. With growing quantities these paper-based procedures have reached their limits and hinder a faster flow of goods. Facilitating trade is important for Cambodia and Sri Lanka to keep up with global supply chains and to enhance their economic development.

The customs authorities of Cambodia and Sri Lanka receive relevant sea cargo information (e.g. cargo manifest, certificate of origin) 24 hours prior to the arrival of a container vessel. This leaves only a short period of time to perform all relevant checks to release the goods. However, all information is already known many weeks in advance to other parties in the supply chain, such as the exporters or shipping lines. Currently, this information is not shared with customs authorities. Thus, clearance processes cannot be planned ahead effectively. The inefficient handling of data leads to longer transit and handling times for companies and prevents a smooth flow of cargo – resulting in increased costs for businesses and customs itself.


In the ‘Digitising Global Maritime Trade’ (DGMT) project, public and private sector partners work together to improve customs’ digital access to advance sea cargo information in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The customs authorities can use this data to perform risk analysis and plan the clearing process of sea cargo prior to its arrival at the port. The core of the project is to provide advice on the design and implementation of digital procedures that allow for risk-based pre-arrival and pre-departure processing of sea cargo. The project activities can be divided into three components.

In Component 1 (completed) the new software ASYHUB Maritime was developed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The software enables the digital exchange of advance sea cargo information with the piloting customs authorities in Sri Lanka and Cambodia, who use ASYCUDAWorld, and shipping data platforms, such as TradeLens.  

After testing the setup of the ASYHUB system, piloting began and is currently in progress under Component 2. To ensure that the new digital processes meet all requirements, the customs authorities’ current organisational and operational environment is analysed. The analysis also includes the IT infrastructure in place and the country’s regulatory framework. The next step after the assessment is to deploy a bespoke version of the software to the customs authorities’ operational environment.

The piloting involves trainings for customs officers as well private sector stakeholders submitting cargo declarations. Across all activities the project facilitates the exchange between public and private sector stakeholders as changes in existing processes are to be accepted and implemented later on by both sides.

The project collaborates with information providers of advance sea cargo data to test the integration with ASYHUB and the customs authorities. The supported software solution is open to all interested parties.

In Component 3 awareness raising and upscaling are foreseen. The two pilot countries will share their experiences with other customs authorities to initiate an uptake of the approach in further countries.


  • The access to digital information will allow customs authorities to process cargo prior to arrival and departure.
  • Customs authorities can determine earlier which goods to inspect, and which to release. It makes the work of customs officers easier and allows them to focus their time on relevant checks instead of handling paperwork.
  • Businesses know whether a container will be released upon arrival/departure or whether it will be physically inspected at the port. Thus, they can plan further logistics handling ahead of time.
  • All in all, this reduces the time and costs of maritime trade for importers, exporters and customs authorities.


The project partners from Sri Lanka Customs, the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia, TradeLens, UNCTAD and GIZ discuss what they expect from the DGMT project and which benefits the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) sees in the project’s public-private structure at the Virtual High Level Forum 2020, organised by the German Alliance for Trade Facilitation.

Photo credits header: Tom Fisk/

Relation to the Trade Facilitation Agreement

This project contributes towards the implementation of the following article of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation:

  • Article 7.1: Release and Clearance of Goods: Pre-arrival Processing
  • Article 7.4: Release and Clearance of Goods: Risk Management

How to get involved

Do you work for a company with international supply chains? Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the project and the German Alliance.