Interview: Jean-François Dutheil, Deputy Director
1) Can you describe your organisation and the products / solutions that you will be presenting at Milipol Paris 2021?
The Directorate General of Customs and Excise Tax is the French border and goods control agency. Customs is a fundamentally sovereign function. Every country in the world needs a customs agency to control its borders and the flow of goods through those borders. Attached to the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, French Customs is in direct contact with today’s issues: the acceleration of trade, new technologies and new threats (particularly cybercrime and terrorism).
The mission of Customs is to monitor our borders, be they physical, digital or maritime, and protect our territory:
- the re-established border between the United Kingdom and France following Brexit has reinforced functions which aim to collect customs duties, ensure rules compliance and guarantee the smooth circulation of trade in lawful goods, placing
- Customs at the heart of the logistics chain.
- digital borders, a new challenge facing Customs that emerged with the development of e-commerce, which generates fragmented flows of millions of parcels, are leading Customs to the systematically target shipments for the purpose of seizing illegal and/or dangerous products.
- customs is also the first civilian agency at sea and contributes to the State’s maritime border surveillance, intercepts ships transporting drugs on the open seas and detects marine pollution.
- lastly, Customs is the border control authority at airports and secondary ports, where it performs the dual duties of immigration enforcement and trafficking prevention by participating fully in immigration control at the country’s borders.
Customs is also the agency responsible for the circulation of goods. Its role is to inspect goods in the interest of protecting the population and the environment and supporting companies:
- Customs works to prevent all kinds of trafficking and organised crime, thanks in particular to detection and targeting tools. It carries out the vast majority of seizures of drugs, counterfeit goods, cigarettes, arms and protected species of plants and animals and also combats both the laundering of the unlawful profits generated by such trafficking and the financing of terrorism.
- It verifies goods compliance throughout the logistics chain, from the border to inside the country.
- It assists companies with their import/export customs operations, offers them appropriate paperless procedures and develops trust-based relationships with them.
- Lastly, it regulates the specific sectors relating to alcohol and tobacco by securing the production and circulation of those goods.
2) In your opinion, which of today’s trends are opening up opportunities for your organisation?
Customs must be at the cutting edge of technology, adapting its resources and tools and innovating in order to acquire inventive new equipment:
- personnel gear by speciality (land, air or sea, dog handlers, motorcycle officers, etc.): weapons, body armour, high-visibility vests, knives used to search goods, and so on
- equipment for the detection of all sorts of fraud: stationary and mobile scanners, X-ray devices, etc.
- land vehicles: motorcycles and other road vehicles, including the gradual incorporation of high-performance electric vehicles
- maritime fleet: coast guard patrol boats and surveillance boats
- air fleet: aeroplanes and helicopters
- data mining tools.
3) What made you decide to participate in Milipol Paris? Will you be presenting innovative or new products and solutions at this year’s event?
Customs is a security force which works to protect and secure the French territory and its people. The Milipol trade show is a chance for Customs to bolster its image and promote its missions and resources.
It is also important for Customs to meet with companies, services providers and suppliers of tools and equipment in the fields of security in general and anti-trafficking in particular.
For the 2021 edition, Customs plans to present:
- New scanners: the delivery of three new scanners (two to a national service and the third to Fos–Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône) that make it easy to discover the latest methods used by traffickers, which can be used on sensitive products thanks to an innovative system.
- New electric and hybrid vehicles: as part of the Recovery Plan launched by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, Customs is renewing its automotive fleet with new hybrid vehicles, in line with the Green Customs project.
- Customs motorcycles and communication methods (all Customs officers assigned to land-based surveillance are fitted out with the AGNET (Access Gate NETwork) app, a communication tool installed on their work smartphones which allows them to securely exchange information and coordinate operations.
- Model coast guard boat: as part of the updating of its fleet, new boats were recently delivered to the French West Indies, and two new launches are currently under construction at the OCEA shipyard, slated to be delivered soon to Saint-Martin and Dunkirk, which is why the builder will be providing us with a mock-up of one of those boats, so the resources being implemented can be presented to the general public.
- New equipment / materials to promote the new wardrobe: several mannequins will be on display, showcasing Customs uniforms by area of specialisation. We also decided to feature our female personnel with a female mannequin wearing the new formal uniform for women.
4) How important is Milipol to increasing your visibility?
Because Milipol is one of the world’s biggest events in this field (and the chosen rate of every other year shows its scope and scale), our agency’s presence at the trade show aims to inform an audience of professionals about its role, security missions, operational expertise, equipment needs and recruitment methods.
As a result, it is a significant advantage for the agency to be able to send representatives (from the Strategy Delegation, National Customs Investigations and Intelligence Directorate and National Customs Coast Guard Directorate) to lead conferences and round tables, as a demonstration of French Customs’ commitment to the field of internal security and of the resources utilised to fulfil its various functions.
5) Where do you plan to develop your activities going forward (national and vertical)?
French Customs has a whole network of services, both in France and abroad. This varied geographic dimension endows Customs with expert knowledge of legal and illegal international activities on our borders and of different goods.
Customs adapts that network based on companies’ import/export needs and on the reality of illegal trafficking in order to prevent it.
As the single, dedicated point of contact for companies at our borders, Customs is developing activities in new areas like e-commerce and data mining. Digital borders are raising new challenges that Customs is gradually tackling through the adoption of innovative, high-performance tools.