UNCTAD celebrates 30 years of ASYCUDA with a "Case study Compendium"


With the “Compendium 2019 – Case Studies”, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) celebrates 30 years of success in the implementation of the ASYCUDA customs system, showing how such a platform has helped over 100 countries to collect more customs duties, speed up trade and become more open for business.

ASYCUDA, in full “Automated System for Customs Data”, is an IT customs management system developed by UNCTAD to automate the operations of customs administrations. The system was adopted in 1981, initially, only for compiling foreign trade statistics. Since then, it has gone through three major upgrades, where new functions have been added (allowing Customs to handle all customs clearance-related processes), and in order to take advantage of innovation in computer hardware, programming language and software technology, so to meet the challenges of the growing volume and complexity of international trade.

ASYCUDA is today conceived as a modular platform, where different components (modules) can be added on at any time to suit the needs of the countries adopting the system. Such add-on modules can cover customs functions such as risk management, transit operations or other procedures allowing a suspension of customs duties or taxes, new security standards, etc., depending on national priorities.

In 1985, UNCTAD launched the second version (Asycuda V2), based on the local area network (LAN) technology, where the system’s functionalities were enriched with new modules aimed to fully automate the customs clearance process, including the transmission of customs declarations, manifests and other documents required for the purposes of customs operations.

The third version (Asycuda ++), based on a client-server architecture, added new customs modules and functionalities, such as direct trader input, risk management, transit monitoring, and submissions of declarations by customs brokers via the Internet. This version is still used today by many developing countries in the world.

The latest edition is ASYCUDA World, a web-based computer system that supports paperless declaration processing through the use of scanned or electronic documents. Introduced in March 2002 and compatible with major database management and operating systems (Oracle, DB2, Sybase MS/Windows and Linux, HP-UX, respectively), ASYCUDA World uses extensible mark-up language (XML), which permits, at the national level, the exchange of any documents between the customs administration and traders, and, at the international level, between different customs administrations via the Internet.

While the ASYCUDA++ system is accessible only from specific client workstations where computers are equipped with client software organising connection with a system server, ASYCUDA World allows external users to access it via internet, without the need of any software installation. Moreover, ASYCUDA++ uses Windows XP and lower versions, while ASYCUDA WORLD can use even higher versions.

The UNCTAD report describes the experiences of several countries in the world that implemented ASYCUDA, analysing its impact in terms of increase of total customs revenue, reduction of corruption (because of the elimination of human intervention in the handling of customs processes), reduction of wait times at the border, and enhancement of the capacity of Customs in general.