Skip to main content
Taxation and Customs Union

Smart and Secure Trade Lanes Pilot (SSTL)


The EU – China Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SSTL) is a Pilot project between the EU and Asia which allows testing end-to-end supply chain security instruments and mechanisms in line with WCO SAFE Framework of Standards (FoS).

It was launched in 2006 to test specific safety and security related recommendations of the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards as regards security measures applied to containers, facilitating ‘Customs-to-Customs’ data exchange, risk management cooperation, mutual recognition of customs controls and trade partnership programmes. MS participate on a voluntary basis.

In 2010, SSTL entered into a second phase with the aim to expand the project which involved selecting more complex lanes, the inclusion of non-AEO companies, the expansion of risk management cooperation.

The SSTL Pilot Project currently operates (approximate) 120 trade lanes involving 200 economic operators between 16 maritime ports and messages are exchanged via the WCO CENComm platform. Due to the data exchange between exporting and importing customs authorities before container stuffing and container loading, the consignments operated under the SSTL pilot project should benefit from the least possible customs intervention in the logistical process.
The evaluation report of Phase 2 concluded a next Phase of SSTL Pilot Project the SSTL trade lane concept should be envisaged and should be based on improved automated data exchange.

The joint administrative arrangement for Phase 3 of the SSTL Pilot Project was signed on 15 July 2016 at the headquarters of the World Customs Organizsation (WCO). In this pilot, the General Administration of China Customs and Hong Kong Customs join the customs authorities of eight EU Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain) and the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union of the European Commission, DG TAXUD. Six additional Member States (Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia) as well as the WCO take part as observers.

Traders joining SSTL will enjoy quicker customs clearance with enhanced logistical processes and overall predictability of the availability of goods for final consumers.

Traders will also gain experience with a new Customs and other Government Agencies approach to control low risk supply chains and positive experiences with participating foreign companies may pave the way for easer access to Authorised Economic Operator Programmes.

Phase 3 will result in an increase in the share of goods traded between the participants covered by SSTL, and is thus expected to have a substantial impact on overall supply chain security and trade facilitation between the EU and China. This involves notably expanding the scope of the pilot, both geographically as well as to air and rail transport, in addition to maritime transport; increasing the volume of consignments covered; and incorporating advanced risk management techniques and developing common risk rules.

An ambitious data exchange mechanism is being developed to support the above objectives and actions.

Furthermore, there is Risk management cooperation under the SSTL umbrella which allows addressing areas of mutual interest. So far several joint risk rule exercises have been conducted with focus on IPR, cigarettes and waste.

SSTL also contributed to a series of important security policy areas, notably as regards the technical comparison of the AEO programmes in view of establishing EU China AEO Mutual recognition, the contribution to the WCO unique consignment reference numbers (UCR) concept and addressing temporary admission issues for container security devices (CSDs).

For more information: