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TIR: protecting supply chains in a pandemic
Global | Geneva

TIR: protecting supply chains in a pandemic

8 Jun 2020

By Tatiana Rey-Bellet, TIR and Transit Services Director 

While the pandemic has shed light on the indispensable nature of commercial road transport operators, it has also brought into sharper focus some of the industry’s key trade facilitation tools and their contribution to global economic recovery. 

As IRU’s TIR and Transit Services Director, I have heard from many of our members, and from transport operators themselves, on their difficulties with trade and border crossing issues due to the COVID-19 related restrictions. More than ever, they have needed a safe, fast and efficient global transit system. 

Working on transit issues around the globe every day, we understood their problems and, as we live and breathe TIR every day here at IRU, we understood how TIR helped. In existence for over 70 years, TIR offers multiple advantages – to both road as well as multimodal shipments. We have always put people first, so the fact that it reduces the number of physical checks on goods to the point of departure and arrival, protecting drivers and customs officers, is very important to us. 

TIR also means faster border crossing procedures, and therefore, faster delivery of essential goods and supplies. Moving to paperless solutions, for example with eTIR, makes transit procedures even more efficient, while also reducing further the risk of virus contamination. 

As well as speed and safety, security is also a key feature of TIR. Customs seals remain intact from the beginning to the end of an international road transport or intermodal journey, meaning that goods cannot be tampered with.

TIR’s many benefits have been on show around the world, making it an indispensable tool to help international supply chains adapt to the pandemic and drive recovery. 

Belarus: a key gateway to and from Europe

Road transport routes across Eurasia have a pivotal role in connecting East and West, with Belarus being a critical TIR trade gateway to and from Europe. The route via Belarus represents the shortest and fastest way for medical equipment and supplies, food and other daily necessities to reach their destinations across Europe, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Central Asia. 

Because of the pandemic, Belarus and its neighbours have created green lanes to ensure smooth cross-border flow of goods, with TIR ensuring the continuity and efficiency of international supply chains.

Preserving China – EU trade 

At a time when commercial transport by air and sea has been limited due to strict confinement measures, land transport has become even more important as a solution to keep international supply chains open and running. This has been the case in particular for trade flows between China and the EU, who trade over €1.5 billion  worth of goods on a daily basis . 

Transport and logistics operators, importers, exporters and customs authorities appreciate transparency, time and cost efficiency as well as security for road and for intermodal shipments.

With China's main borders for road transport routes via Central Asia to Europe progressively reopening, and the strong support of government transport ministries and customs authorities, TIR journeys have been gradually restored at key border crossings such as Alashankou, Khorgos and Erenhot, reinforcing cross-border freight transit.

With the situation gradually stabilising, China-EU TIR transport routes are driving the resumption of production activities in China. The main goods transported include medical protection equipment, electromechanical products, high-value mechanical parts, lithium batteries, precision instruments and non-perishable daily necessities. 

Driving the global economic recovery 

After several months of living with the economic impacts of the virus on transport and trade, adjusting to new rules and regulations, and gathering feedback from our members, we have truly seen TIR’s value on display. With several countries now having passed the peak of their coronavirus outbreaks and seeking to rejuvenate trade-related sectors in their economies, TIR is one of the best means of supporting post COVID-19 recovery efforts. It enables continuous cargo flows from a country of origin, through transit countries, to a country of destination with no cargo handling en route.

TIR cuts transport times by up to 60% and costs by up to 40%, allowing trade flows to resume safely and securely, and supporting global, regional and national efforts to restart economies as quickly as possible.
I am very pleased with what we have been able to achieve so far thanks to TIR. Today, we are getting ready for a new significant challenge: to protect the industry and ensure it helps drive the global economic recovery. 

The next step to speed up trade flows even further is to use eTIR and digitalise all customs procedures. Countries in Central Asia, Iran, Azerbaijan and many more are already actively preparing for this step. 

At IRU, we continue to raise awareness about the benefits and importance of TIR transports. Now more than ever, the global economy relies on safe, secure and efficient border crossings for its goods.