Introduction: The one-stop shops we are referring to here are not related to the Business Development Centres. These company counters are certainly an initiative of the EU, but they are the result of the directive of December 12, 2006, related to the internal market and the national competence has been created since 2015. Their challenge is to harmonize public services for businesses and facilitate business creation. However, we already have a lot of work to do with our regulatory information.
The single window, or rather single windows, is an inexhaustible subject of debate. By harmonizing practices and data, it is one of the logistical Grails towards the fluidity of exchanges. At the international level, since 2005, the UNECE has formalized Recommendation No. 33 to define its vision of single windows and their implementation. On a European scale, EMSWe, a cousin of eFTI on the processing of ship departure and arrival transactions in ports, is emerging since 2019 and the promulgation of Regulation 2019/1239. On a French scale, the Hémar and Daher report set the ball rolling for French logistics competitiveness, and France PCS is one of the emanations in charge of making the French port tool a benchmark in data processing.
A first theoretical overview of how to approach single windows based on the framework set up by the UN bodies.
While the single window concept has infused the entire planet, from Mauritius to Ethiopia and Uganda, through ever more inventive acronyms, Australia, Sweden, Singapore and the United States, it is difficult to trace the first, and since recurring, occurrences of the term single window in international trade treaty negotiations. The World Customs Organization (WCO) offers us a clarification of the term.
A Single Window is defined as a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transportation to deposit standardized information and documents with a single point of entry in order to complete all official import, export and transit formalities.
The World Customs Organization, which we will probably not contradict
Three things are worth noting: you connect to a single electronic portal and the data is entered only once, and the African continent is not left behind in terms of initiatives on the subject, perhaps taking advantage of technological leaps as was the case with mobile telephony (versus fixed telephony, which is very little used) and mobile payment (versus payment by credit card).
Implementation: Recommendation #33
UN/CEFACT and UNECE provide detailed implementation instructions and a second definition that will be enjoyed immediately in the language of Shakespeare:
A facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. If information is electronic, then individual data elements should only be submitted once. UN/CEFACT Recommendation No. 33 p.7
Currently, it is important to acknowledge that a one-stop shop without electronic data is not feasible, and we must adapt to the times. There are three typical models of the single window: (1) Single Authority, where a single point of contact, such as Customs in Sweden, consolidates the tasks of several public agencies. (2) Single Automated System, where economic actors in the United States submit data to a single system that redistributes the information to relevant authorities. (3) Automated Information Transaction System, where instructions for approval and payment can be transmitted to the central system in Mauritius or Singapore, in addition to "simple" data or documents, and some calculations such as taxes or benefits are performed directly by the same central system. The UNECE conducted around ten case studies on implementing a single window, which was likely published in 2016 according to the document titled Case Studies on Implementing a Single Window. The responses for the case studies were provided by the operating states themselves.
Recommendation No. 33 also lists a series of existing tools aimed at facilitating the implementation of a single window in the sense of the WCO. It mentions a whole range of other reference documents initiated by organizations that are closely or remotely concerned with the notion of a single window. UNECE is the UN intergovernmental body in charge of economic issues for Europe, UN/CEFACT is an offshoot dedicated to the facilitation of electronic commerce and it produces a number of standards on information coding (UN/LOCODE), data modelling (UMM), document models (UNeDOCS). UNCTAD is another UN intergovernmental body on trade and development in charge of ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data), which affects about 100 countries. The IMO (International Maritime Organization), just before the sexual revolution - coincidence or chance? - established the FAL Convention (Facilitation of International Maritime), which is still a reference in the field of ship traffic and tends to be encoded within the single windows. The ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) spends most of its time creating rules, norms and standards for international trade that many countries adopt jointly to facilitate their exchanges. Finally, the WCO (World Customs Organization) is involved in the revised Kyoto Convention, the Customs Data Model and the Unique Consignment Reference, which respectively aim to coordinate and unify border inspections, standardize the data handled by Customs and uniquely identify goods during transport. For your convenience, a list of some UN bodies is available here.
If you lack the courage to tackle the UNECE guidelines and are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life, take a break and draw a schematic diagram of a one-stop shop. It's a simple exercise that even an 8-10 year old child can do. On the left side of your A4 landscape sheet, draw a stick figure to represent the individual in modern society. Draw an arrow pointing to the right from the stick figure, leading to a cloud or oblong shape containing the words "GUICHET UNIQUE" (One-Stop Shop) in capital letters to emphasize its importance. On the remaining free space, let your imagination run wild and draw two-way arrows connecting the One-Stop Shop to various public authorities such as the Chamber of Commerce, Veterinary Services, Banks, Insurance Company, and Tobacco Office. The length of the arrows is not important as long as they connect the One-Stop Shop and the relevant authority. Finish the diagram by drawing a final arrow from the One-Stop Shop back to the stick figure, symbolizing the strong and unified connection between individuals and their public authorities. To personalize the drawing, add a title, a logo, and mustaches on the stick figure. Overall, this is a fun activity that allows you to express your enthusiasm for the harmonization of international trade data models during this summer period.
The EU initiatives allow us a second description of a narrower but more concrete perimeter: that of the maritime one-stop-shops.
EMSWe: European Maritime Single Window System
The European Commission has taken up the vast subject of reporting obligations for ships entering EU ports. This is in the spirit of the IMO FAL Convention and is called EMSWe (European Maritime Single Window environment). All of this is religiously recorded by copyist monks in Regulation (EU) 2019/1239, which states in summary that a process similar to that of eFTI is set in motion for the "establishment of a legal and technical framework for the electronic transmission of information related to reporting obligations for ships calling at EU ports."
All of this will be processed through the submitted mill of Delegated Acts and Implementing Acts, which will give substance to the Regulation by specifying the functional and technical aspects of the services offered by the EMSWe, such as user management, common addressing, and databases for vessels, locations, hazardous materials, and sanitation. As of August 15, 2025, it will render the 2010/65/EU Directive obsolete. This directive is not very restrictive in terms of data exchange and has reached its limits, as existing national one-stop-shops struggle to exchange data with each other. Furthermore, the "Tell us once" paradigm was not yet central at that time.
In terms of the basic reflection on interoperability, technological neutrality and multimodality, it can be noted that particular attention is being paid to the complementary roles of the Guichet Unique Maritime (GUM, or GUMP if it is only a port - which is not bad, and NSW in English) and Port Community Systems (PCS or CCS for Cargo Community Systems). If the GUM becomes the single point of entry for operators to transmit regulatory information to the authorities, what about ports equipped with a PCS that also plays the role of data aggregator and federator of the various actors in the port community? We are moving towards a versatility of systems: the GUM will transmit the information to the PCS, and if an operator is used to entering its data in a PCS, it is the PCS that will transmit to the GUM.
He saw what he had done, and it was all very bijective. Bram Van Hackerman
EU Single Customs Window
We should not deny ourselves the opportunity to standardize and streamline goods management practices on a European scale. Therefore, on October 28, 2020, the European Commission proposed a one-stop-shop initiative for customs. Given that the customs union oversees 3.5 billion euros of goods passing under its agents' eyes, there is likely room for improvement.
The key to success would be linking the systems managing customs requirements with those managing non-custom requirements, such as TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) for veterinary health services. This relies on a central element devised by the EU: the exchange of EU Customs Single Window (EU CSW-CERTEX) certificates. This initiative started under the leadership of DG TAXUD in 2016 with the launch of an impact assessment, followed by a public consultation in 2018-2019, and the publication of the impact assessment in 2020. B2G and G2G cooperation will require further reflection and will give way to the constitution of a college of experts, similar to the DTLF for the eFTI ecosystem.
The Eric Hémar and Patrick Daher report
It is a report eponymous to its editors respectively president of the Union TLF and chairman of the Daher Group, published in September 2019 at the request of the Ministry of Economy. It is entitled For a more competitive supply chain at the service of companies and sustainable development.
And concludes with six key measures for France to better take advantage of its four international gateways that are Dunkirk, Roissy, Le Havre and Marseille, for it to rise in international rankings and become a strategic logistics hub .
An association of private players has emerged from the smoke and mirrors of the Hémar and Daher report: France Logistique, whose aim is to support and promote the proposed measures. For the time being, we will focus on France PCS, an economic interest group supported by France Logistique. France PCS is formed by MGI and SOGET, historical actors of the PCS in France, to providing France with a tool up to its ambitions.
Testimony of the market players
- Roberto Alongi, Project Manager at DG MOVE
- Julien Fernandez, head of the port strategy and development office at the DGITM and DST
- Jérôme Besancenot, President of the PROTECT Group and Director of the HAROPA Port digital transition project
- Hervé Cornède, President of France PCS
With Roberto Alongi, we discuss Regulation 2019/1239 - and its predecessor Directive 2010/65, which talked about digitization while forgetting about interoperability - recalling that it aims to promote the establishment of maritime one-stop shops through harmonization specifications. Behind the scenes, this involves the creation of a common dataset for ALL the single windows, containing ALL the information that the actors are led to use in the life cycle of a good on the European territory. On stage, this implies the creation of data entry interfaces (new application and support of historical tools, in particular, our good old spreadsheets so popular) and reporting interfaces (The RIM: Reporting Interface Module) for men and programming interfaces for machines.
The implementation will rely on the European Commission for the data model, interface, access management, and common database, and on the Member States for the adaptation of existing systems and after-sales support. See you in 2025 and regularly between now and then for the promulgation of delegated acts.
With Julien Fernandez, we discuss several keywords: Harmonization (of UI and data), Zero paper, and OOP (Once-only principle or "Tell us once"). These are self-imposed constraints that we want to see transformed into opportunities via a system that is not centralized, but a flexible application network. And in terms of opportunities, Hervé Cornède reminds us that one of France PCS's expertise is to use its technology and software expertise to improve processes in a collaborative and neutral approach by acting as a trusted third party. The essential compromise between adapting to the specificities of an operator at the risk of over-measuring and orienting the business process towards more technical ease is at the heart of the reflections concerning GUM. Only the answer to the question "What value do we bring?" can distinguish the wheat from the chaff. It is a balancing act and even within the IPCSA (International Port Community Systems Association), the scope of PCS is now being fiercely debated.
With Jérôme Fernandez, representative of PROTECT, an organization that has been promoting dematerialization in European ports since 1992, the technical aspects of the GUMP were discussed, as well as its arrangement with existing and future PCS. A communication loop between GUMPs and PCSs seems to be the most relevant solution to continue to take advantage of the operational nature of PCSs, whose activity sometimes encompasses the requirements of a GUM in only a few details.
Migration from one ecosystem to another means a lot of nodes in the brain during the transition period, and it is another major concern to maintain an equal quality of service without discontinuity between now and the complete switchover. A complete switchover that, in addition to interconnecting the ports, aims to interconnect the ports and the hinterland.
Regarding other topics in bulk:
- Cybersecurity is a particular point of vigilance, especially with regard to the reluctance of players to join platforms of this type.
- It is not excluded that the platforms open to countries outside the EU, a dialogue with the IMO and Eastern European countries are underway.
- One-stop shopping does not mean one system; the North Star remains interoperability within a federated network and constellation of applications.
- The key for the future is the RIM being developed by the European Commission, to be tested by each Member State, and then the nationally harmonized interface to be developed by each Member State based on the EU specifications. Demonstrators will be able to come to life as soon as the RIM is launched.