Since training and developing personnel are essential to the future success of Customs administrations, in Europe and beyond, production and trials in innovative training materials are central to the mandate of PEN-CP. During first half of the project, PEN-CP surveyed partner administrations on their views on customs training needs and priorities, and obtained responses from most PEN-CP Customs partners, as well as from a representative of CELBET, the Customs Eastern and South-Eastern Land Border Expert Team. Important training themes and topics identified in the survey included “Master course for recruitment staff on X-ray image analysis,” “Post-clearance auditing,” “Customs controls on trains,” and “Cooperation with other agencies at the border.” All of these remain possible topics for future PEN-CP training modules.
In 2022, based on this broad fact-finding exercise, the main training package - “Customs seals control” - was designed, implemented and piloted by PEN-CP, in close collaboration with CELBET. The materials include an introductory recording, an actual lecture recording and lecture slides, all readily available online for PEN-CP, and CELBET customs officers to study. The lecture addresses four main topics:
General information about customs seals;
Seals samples (SMS TAXUD) and documents verification;
Custom seals examination; and
Means of transport that can be secured with Customs seals: Curtain siders; Solid siders (refrigerated) and Containers; Tankers; and Vans and small trucks
In another phase of its training material development activity, PEN-CP included the “Customs data analyst e-learning course” materials, located on Canvas Learning Management System, in the overall PEN-CP training materials package. As of January 2023, we have some 80 hours of self-learning content, which strongly reflects the actual research and experimenting outcomes of the EU Horizon 2020 project PROFILE, ready for pilot learners to study and test themselves with. The 15 modules, covering several dozens of sub-modules, are aimed at two main target audiences: (i) data analysts and scientists without customs experience who are starting to work in the customs domain; and (ii) customs experts who intend to work in data-analytics related tasks in the future, but who have no or little previous experience in methods and techniques, external and internal data sources, etc.
PEN-CP is also developing, in cooperation with the State University of Campinas (Brazil), a 60-hour training package on “Basic statistics and probability for Customs officers”, which will be the equivalent of a bachelor-level university course in statistics. The target audience for the course includes customs officers working in risk management & targeting, operations planning & management, and in various customs and trade statistics functions, as well as in Customs strategic management. As of late January 2023, around 60 hours of material, rich with customs-relevant examples, datasets and exercises for a learner-friendly e-learning experience, are available in a Google e-learning environment. The authoring team will also publish a course book in the near future.
Another package of training materials is featured in a 40-hour lecture series entitled “Crime and security in global supply chains”, an area commonly referred to as “the dark side of global supply chain management”. The lecture series allows learners to:
Learn about real-world security incidents in global supply chains
Discover security management strategies of leading companies and law enforcement agencies worldwide
Develop their risk management thinking in customs and logistics, with the help of in group works
Exchange their ideas with experienced academics and law enforcement practitioners
Solve quantitative crime and security problems
Learn cutting-edge supply chain security management from educational animations and videos
Annual Studies are the flagship knowledge creation instruments in PEN-CP. So far, we have produced and published two Annual Studies. The first study, “Enhancing Customs Risk Management with External Data,” explores the data landscapes of today's customs world. It argues that external data can enrich actual declaration data, providing additional data elements for customs to verify and base their risk assessments on. The second study, “Customs Innovations for Fighting Fraud and Trafficking in Cross-border Parcel Flows,” showcases customs innovations that tackle the challenges of cross-border parcel controls worldwide. You can download the study reports here:
According to PEN-CP internal procedures, PEN-CP partners discuss and agree the scope, priorities and research questions for each new study before it is launched. We are currently collaborating with PEN-CP Customs experts as co-authors and study panel members to develop the following studies:
“Estimating the size of illicit markets — techniques and examples for collecting evidence on the volume and value of illegal trade.” The study describes innovative, often unconventional techniques for collecting circumstantial evidence on the true scale of illicit markets across different commodities, including cocaine, firearms, ivory and ivory products, cultural artifacts, cigarettes, and timber & wood products. The data sources, analytical techniques and quantitative models being used may be of interest to customs risk management experts, and to policy makers in the security, logistics and trade policy arenas. (Status January 2023: this study is 75% completed, with a section on six use cases currently being prepared.)
“Green Customs — a conceptual framework and examples of initiatives from around the world.” The study seeks to envision a broad range of environmentally friendly customs activities and show examples of Green Customs initiatives from around the world. The first four case studies are being developed in Ireland, the Netherlands, Brazil and Costa Rica. (Status Jan2023: on-going study, still missing 3-4 case studies, in particular from Asian and African continents.)
“Fifteen years of EU-funded innovation projects — Customs views on project results and follow-up developments.” For decades, the European Union has funded research, development and innovation (RDI) projects under the Framework Programmes. Though this funding has produced leading-edge innovations in many sectors, it’s uncertain how valuable their outcomes have been for Customs practitioners. This Annual Study seeks to clear up this uncertainty, by identifying EU-funded technologies and solutions – especially in high-potential areas of innovation like detection technologies, laboratory equipment, and data analytics - that have strong potential for improving customs operations. The study also investigates follow-up developments and initiatives that have taken place after the conclusion of EU-funded RDI projects. (Status January 2023: on-going, detailed analysis of at least 6-10 past RDI projects of Customs relevance being prepared.)
“Making the best out of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Customs and other government agency use.” (Status January 2023: this is an early-phase study, details to follow during spring 2023.)
The purpose of PEN-CP Expert Reports is to fill knowledge gaps among our Customs practitioner network, either by (i) supplying information for a specific question or problem; or (ii) to initiate a step-1 action in an (anticipated) longer chain of knowledge creation and innovation-boosting activities. Calls for new Expert Reports (ERs) can be triggered either by requests from individual Customs partners, or by PET teams. Following a simple call procedure, the most suitable expert is identified to research and write a report, in a relatively short timeframe, to supply the required information. Available grant funding typically enables some 15-20 person days of work, carried out over a 2-4 month timeline and supervised regularly by a small team of PEN-CP experts. After delivering their written report, experts are invited to present their findings either during a Penday online-event, or at the next Annual Event.
Between years 2019 and 2021, the following five Expert Reports were triggered by PEN-CP partners and completed by the selected external experts, with a variety of follow-up actions either implemented or outlined:
1)“Mapping of European start-up/scale-up landscape (ER1)” -- the lead author of this report, from the European Start-up Network, Belgium, sits on the PEN-CP Advisory Board, and is now advising us on how best to exploit ER1 outcomes -- some 90 innovators on the POP database -- for our upcoming Open Innovation and other calls.
(2-3) “Future of Customs communication toolboxes: useful features and user experiences (as two separate reports, ER2 & ER3)” -- the outcomes of these two reports are proving highly beneficial as we explore various upgrading options for future PEN-CP communication tools and platforms.
4) “Review of databases on laboratory techniques and methods for the analysis of new materials or products (ER4)” -- this report was prepared by PEN-CP PET-3 team members, who are now considering how best to make it available to the broader community of Customs laboratory experts.
(5) “Mapping national innovation calls in three EU Countries: Sweden, Germany and Spain (ER5)” -- this latest PEN-CP Expert Report was presented to the full PEN-CP consortium during Penday-March-2022, by its authors from German Aerospace Center (DLR). Follow-up actions, including entering the national innovation project data into POP platform (as PSIMs), have taken place during spring 2022.