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What advantages does a Customs Control Tower provide for international trade?

Discover how a customs control tower provides you with deep insight and powerful decision-making when you’re importing or exporting goods.
GEODIS Logo by GEODIS Marketing 04/04/2023
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When you’re moving products across international borders, it’s vital to track the flow of goods throughout the import and export process. That’s where a Customs Control Tower comes in. A control tower gathers, consolidates, and presents information from multiple sources, so you can immediately understand the location and status of your goods. 

Understanding exactly how a customs control tower can make your international trade quicker and easier is helpful. We know you have questions, so here are our answers on why you should use a control tower to ease the flow of goods worldwide.  

Let’s get into it. 


What is a customs control tower? 

A customs control tower is a digital tracking and reporting tool. It gathers and consolidates data from multiple systems and data sources. It then analyzes that information and presents it in an easy-to-understand way, normally via a reporting dashboard. You can use the information from the customs control tower to track your products, see their status, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions.  


How does a customs control tower work? 

A customs broker will set up your customs control tower for your products. The control tower will integrate with multiple other systems, including logistics services, shippers, US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP). The control tower will regularly query these other systems to identify the location and status of your products.  

The tool then analyzes these responses and presents everything in a real-time, easy-to-read format. You can review your reports to understand how your shipments are progressing. A customs control tower can also alert you if goods are being delayed or if they are having other issues. 

What are the benefits of using a customs control tower? 

A customs control tower provides several advantages to importers, exporters, and shippers: 

  • Get real-time visibility of your products, so you can immediately understand where your goods are. 
  • See the end-to-end flow of goods throughout your entire import or export supply chain.  
  • Act as a single point of information for all customs-related processes. 
  • Understand and mitigate potential risks that may delay your goods clearing through customs. 
  • Upload the right documentation to reduce costs and delays in the customs process. 
  • Comply with customs rules and identify any potential breaches before they become a major problem. 
  • Optimize the flow of goods and track that products are clearing customs quickly and easily.  
  • Calculate and understand how much you will need to pay in tariffs and fees. 
  • Reduce the impact of inspections and audits.  


How do I get access to a customs control tower? 

Control tower access is typically provided by your licensed customs broker. They will consult with you to understand your control tower and visibility needs, then create a customized version of the tool for your business. You will be able to log into your control tower via a web portal.  


Can a customs control tower provide visibility beyond customs? 

Some customs brokers are part of larger, third-party logistics (3PL) businesses. In those cases, a control tower may integrate with other 3PL services. For example, a control tower may link with information on Foreign-Trade Zones, onward transport, storage, or distribution.  


Where does a customs control tower get its information? 

The tool will query multiple sources via various integrations. Typical data sources include: 

  • Information from your business systems related to imports and exports. 
  • The exporter in the foreign country. 
  • USCBP information from their electronic filing systems and other software. 
  • Details from other government agencies for goods that fall under their purview. 
  • Licensed customs brokerage firms. 
  • Supply chain partners such as suppliers and manufacturers. 
  • Freight forwarders, carriers, and customs brokerage businesses 
  • Third-party logistics providers. 


What type of information would I upload into a customs control tower? 

Different control towers and customs brokerages will ask for different information. This can include: 

  • The type, quantity, and value of the goods you import or export.  
  • Details of any required regulations, licenses, or permits. 
  • The countries and ports involved with the import or export of goods.  
  • Details of your supply chain partners, such as suppliers or manufacturers. 
  • Foreign trade documents and filings. 
  • Onward logistics planning for when goods arrive in the destination country. 


When is a customs control tower updated? 

Statuses and frequencies can vary, but common update points include: 

  • Pickup of goods from their point of origin. 
  • Handovers between various third parties include goods handling, freight forwarders, transport providers, and warehouses. 
  • The arrival of the goods into a destination port. 
  • Progress of goods through the customs and clearance process.  
  • Pickup of goods from the destination port. 

Some control towers may also provide geolocation services through devices that track product movements.  

How does a customs control tower help me make better international trade decisions? 

There are several ways that a customs control tower will give you more insight and help you to make better decisions: 

  • Track and report on trends and patterns in how your goods are progressing through the import, export, and customs process. 
  • Notify you when your goods clear customs, so you can arrange to get them to market quickly.  
  • Understand when you will need to pay duties and fees, allowing for better cashflow management. 
  • Drive better demand management so you can improve product availability. 
  • Provide easier communications between supply chain partners. 
  • Track and reroute goods to avoid delays or issues.  
  • Stay up to date with regulations and compliance. 


Where can I learn more about customs control tower services? 

We’re glad you asked. You can read more in our in-depth guide to customs control towers in our “Expertise Insights” section. If you want to discover how we can help you, please do get in touch


GEODIS Marketing
Freight Forwarding
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