The WCO TEG-NII discusses how to enhance the Customs control efficiency

09 November 2021

The WCO Technical Experts Group on Non-Intrusive Inspection (TEG-NII) held its 8th Meeting on 4 and 5 November 2021 as the first meeting of a WCO working body to be held in a hybrid format since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The Meeting gathered, both online and at the WCO headquarters in Brussels, more than 140 participants from 68 Member Customs administrations and 5 NII vendors, which is a record number for the TEG-NII.

In his opening remarks, the WCO Director for Compliance and Facilitation, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, stressed the growing importance of the use of big data and data analytics in Customs – a topic of relevance also to the TEG-NII. The Director further highlighted the importance of optimizing the use of scanning equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, as NII contributed to the social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and supported the supply chain continuity. In this context, it was important for the TEG-NII not to lose momentum and to continue working towards enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations in the NII domain.

The TEG-NII discussions centered around two main topics – the Unified File Format (UFF) Development Programme and other NII-related matters.

The TEG-NII took note of the intersessional progress in the development of a use case on a UFF 2.0 deployment project involving large scale cargo NII systems with available internet or glass fibre connection, and endorsed the draft use case, as a living document, with a view to providing guidance material to those Members that are considering the implementation of pilot projects to test and deploy UFF 2.0. The use case will soon be made available on the WCO Members’ website as part of the SAFE Package.

Under the agenda item devoted to the scope and timelines of Phase 3 of the UFF Development Programme, and based on a progress update by the Private Sector Co-Chairperson, the TEG-NII discussed possible criteria for the inclusion of more vendors in the UFF development initiative. The criteria that future private sector members should meet include: i) NII manufactures and significant NII systems integrators; ii) committed to integrating UFF and supporting its goals outlined in the TEG-NII Terms of Reference; iii) should have equipment in active use with WCO Members; iv) should have International sales; and v) prepared to commit time and effort to develop the standard. The initiative will continue to be limited to large-scale, high-energy NII systems. Interested NII industry members can write to the Secretariat at and request to be added to the UFF Development Team.

The group also discussed the governance aspects of the UFF maintenance, and the Secretariat will soon send a letter to the WCO Membership to invite interested Members to join a steering group of technical experts that will be handling modifications and expansions to the UFF. The first expansions to the UFF will cover the development of Application Programming Interface (API), the inclusion in the UFF of data from Radiation Portal Monitors (RPM), and the establishment of an image library to support testing by Members and vendors.

Based on presentations by the Secretariat, the European Union, Japan, GScan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, the United States and China, the TEG-NII discussed various NII-related matters such as Radiological and Nuclear Detection Awareness, Data Analytics, approaches to research and innovation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other innovations in NII, centralized image analysis and data acquisition, as well as the possible requirements for X-Ray systems for inspection of cars and small vehicles in drive-through mode.

Under the agenda item on Innovation in NII, the Group called for the development of novel and new technology to support Customs in their efforts to facilitate and secure international trade. Furthermore, the TEG-NII confirmed the importance of the use of AI for the development of threat detection algorithms and stressed the importance of efficient data collection in that regard.

“Customs administrations need to constantly invest efforts to catch up with the advances of technology”, a delegate said and appreciated the opportunities provided by the meetings of the TEG-NII to share experiences in the area of NII.