Dubai: In support of the UAE’s sustainable economic development, Dubai Customs has been able to meet the challenges of the global economic recession arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The year 2020 saw new pioneering achievements for Dubai Customs in terms development of Customs work processes and innovation of new solutions and initiatives to ensure the smooth flow of trade and mitigate the impacts of the global pandemic.

This follows the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to promote sustainable economic development and consolidate the UAE's global leadership.

Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director General of Dubai Customs, said: “Against all odds Dubai Customs has kept pace with the UAE's successive pioneering accomplishments in 2020, the year of preparation for the next 50. Dubai’s foreign trade is gradually recovering with steady growth momentum despite disruptions from the COVID-19 outbreak. This is particularly reflected in the strong growth of customs transactions due to our use of advanced technologies that helped us maintain our business uninterrupted during lockdown and remote working period. Dubai Customs also introduced several milestone projects supporting our direction to play a major role in future trade transformations. These include the launch of the Blockchain-based cross-border e-commerce platform, which paves the way to attract more logistics and e-commerce companies.”

In terms of society protection, Dubai Customs also launched “Siyaj”, the leading security initiative which employs 24/7 integrated smart control systems to curb illegal trafficking and smuggling, he added.  

Musabih further noted: “We continue to implement our strategy to lead the customs sector through the development of innovative, technology-based customs systems that facilitate customs operations and speed up the flow of trade and passengers. The International Monetary Fund's note commending Dubai Customs for exemplary implementation of Blockchain technology is a source of pride for us and prompts us to continue pursuing our vision of being the world's leading customs administration supporting legitimate trade.” 

Non-oil foreign trade

Dubai recorded AED 551 billion worth of non-oil external trade in the first half of 2020. Imports accounted for AED 320 billion, exports AED 77 billion, and re-exports AED 154 billion. A total volume of 44 million tonnes of goods were traded through Dubai during the period, including 30 million tonnes of imports, 8 million tonnes of exports and 6 million tonnes of re-exports.

Sharp rise in transactions

Customs transactions processed by Dubai Customs grew by 23% in 2020 compared to 2019. The sharp rise in transactions reflects the strength and resilience of the economy and the emirate’s proven capability to weather external economic shocks and turn challenges into real opportunities.

Smooth remote working

Dubai Customs is reaping the fruits of successful investment in advanced technologies and smart applications over recent years. Business run smoothly without any significant interruptions during the remote and home working period. There were automatic approval and clearance of about 97% of no-risk consignment transactions in 2 minutes without any human intervention.

From 15th March to 2nd June, employees completed 8.5 million minutes of audio and video calling using Microsoft TEAMS, shared screen for 2.1 million minutes, and sent 1.1 million instant messages. They conducted 298,000 individual and group calls.

Dubai Customs has made available all necessary tools to boost the productivity of its employees during the remote working period. These included the virtual desktop which enables user to host all office applications and work from anywhere, Mizlay which enables employees to safely access their emails and other Dubai Customs applications, and Microsoft TEAMS for online meetings and communication. More than 18,000 meetings have been conducted through TEAMS. Exchange of information via TEAMS accounted for 15% against 85% for email in March while in April the usage of TEAMS program increased to 34% compared to 66% for email. 

Precautionary measures

Dubai Customs launched several intitatives to ensure a healthy and safe environment at work, including provision of 200 mobile phone disinfection devices to all department, sections and customs centers to protect staff from the spread of coronavirus.

Safe Station was one of the innovations that Dubai Customs incorporated in its back to office plan. The 21 temperature check kiosks were deployed to help monitor the health status of employees. Dubai Customs also launched the Safe Customs Inspector Corridor which is a state-of-the-art, fully-equipped PPE innovation that ensures the protection of inspection staff.

Stimulus initiatives

As part of the economic stimulus package announced by the Government of Dubai to alleviate the burden on businesses and help them navigate the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, Dubai Customs launched an initiative offering 80% discount on fines for customs cases and violations detected or committed before March 31, 2020.

Dubai Customs also introduced an initiative waiving late fines on renewal/cancelation of Customs representative card targeting Customs brokers and agents.  

World PMO of the Year 

Dubai Customs was named named the "2020 World PMO of the Year" at the PMO Global Awards organised by the PMO Global Alliance, the leading global community of project management professionals.

Dubai Customs outclassed government and private organizations from 20 countries worldwide to win the prestigious global honour. With 125 projects worth AED350 million implemented between 2007 and 2019, Dubai Customs has demonstrated outstanding standards in implementing projects based on Industry 4.0 technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain as part of its mission to protect society and facilitate trade.

Accredited innovation lab

Dubai Customs’ Future Center for Research and Development received Accredited Innovation Lab (AInL) certification from the US-based Global Innovation Institute (GInI). The organization is now the first Customs administration in the world to get such a global accreditation.

GInI granted Innovation Lab accreditation to Dubai Customs based on a number of assessments which covered strategy, innovation support, design, infrastructure, security, resources, and innovation maturity. GInI operates the world’s most recognized, comprehensive, and professionally-managed evidence-based innovation certification program for individuals and corporations. 

17 global awards

Dubai Customs developed 32 disruptive innovations throughout 2020, raising the number of innovations developed by the government department between 2010 and 2020 to 237.

Dubai Customs also received 17 global awards of excellence for outstanding achievement in innovation in 2020 to raise the total number of recognitions and awards to 127.


Dubai Customs recycled 161,753 counterfeit, IP-infringing products for 59 international brands in 2020, instead of being destroyed. DC’s IPR department resolved 255 intellectual property dispute cases in 2020.

The department organized 56 IP awareness events and workshops that benefited 2,667 participants including students, supervisors, government staff and customs inspectors.  As many as 367 trademarks and 203 new trade agencies have been recorded by Dubai Customs during 2020. Moreover, the IPR department also registered 8 knowledge assets and innovations supporting Customs work that were developed internally by DC teams and employees.

Siyaj initiative

Dubai Customs launched Siyaj (Fence) initiative, the smart integrated system to control Dubai’s customs entry-points. The new system is based on a number of sophisticated AI technologies, rapid intervention teams that work around the clock, drones, and the K9 sniffing dog unit for targeting and inspection operations inside the customs zone.

The initiative will enhance Dubai and the UAE’s security and help protect the society from the hazards of illegitimate shipments and smuggling while facilitating trade and supporting the global supply chain.

Biggest drug seizure

Within its role of protecting the society and securing the borders, Dubai Customs officers foiled the largest narcotics smuggling operation at coastal borders to date, seizing 662 kg as part of ‘Safe Nation’ campaign.

The seizure, carried out by the Creek and Deira Wharfage Customs Center, which operates under the Sea Customs Management, comprised divers types of narcotics. The seized drugs included 306.44 kg of crystal meth, 201.44kg of opium and cannabis, and 122.72kg of narcotic pills and psychotropic substances and 32.62kg of heroin.

Severe blows

The Safe Nation campaign continued to deal severe blows to drug traffickers and smugglers in Dubai. In another major drug haul, Dubai Customs staff seized 76.31kg of narcotics at Hamriya Port.

Officers intercepted the drug trafficking operation seizing 30.15kg of crystal meth and 46.16kg of hashish, together worth Dhs47.5m, which was found stashed inside an inbound container shipment.


Dubai Customs plays a major role in supporting the strategy which sees Dubai as the world’s capital of the new economy. This is done through reinforcing the companies of the future economy such as the e-commerce businesses by facilitating trade and reducing costs for them so that they can set up regional operations in Dubai.

For that, Dubai Customs is developing the Cross Border e-Commerce Platform; the collaborative blockchain-based e-commerce platform, which caters to the needs of all stakeholders in the e-commerce supply chain.

The platform aims to increase the share of Dubai-based e-commerce businesses in local and regional distribution to AED 24billion by 2022, through augmenting the number of regional and global e-commerce companies operating in Dubai in the coming years. In order to motivate e-commerce companies to establish e-logistics distribution centres in Dubai, the government aims to reduce the total cost of e-commerce operations by 20% - including the costs of returned goods, storage, and transportation.

E-commerce sales are expected to rise 23% to US$27 billion (AED100 billion) in 2022.

Training courses

Dubai Customs carried out 732 training courses during 2020, targeting 4,000 staff participants, spanning a total of 29,000 training hours. Of these 676 online training courses were conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic. DC’s summer training program 2020 qualified 1179 students over 912 training hours.

Dubai Customs “Leaders” training program graduated the fifth batch of employees who joined the program to develop their leadership competencies and gain learning and skills on how to overcome current and future challenges. 

The program, which Dubai Customs launched at the end of 2019, engaged 16 employees from different departments and centers in Dubai Customs. 
The 54-hour program, accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, ILM, included different sessions that covered topics like personal skills, authorization, leadership, team motivation and leadership skills. 

During the program, a Virtual Reality Leadership Lab was launched to train the employees in a unique and more interactive content. 


Dubai Customs succeeded in establishing a sustainable model for corporate social responsibility, and managed to overcome all obstacles and challenges during this exceptional year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government entity conducted 140 community-oriented and charitable initiatives benefiting more than 63,000 people from all segments of society.

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