International movement and connectivity are facing unprecedented challenges as an increasing number of countries around the world close their borders and impose travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The patchwork of uncoordinated measures taken complicates compliance by transport operators. This is causing huge delays at borders in many countries and making it increasingly difficult to keep road transport supply chains open.
If this situation lasts, it could impact the delivery of essential goods, such as food and medical items, especially for the countries that are the most dependent on imports to cover basic needs. More globally, excessive restrictions to cross-border and transit freight transport are aggravating the economic and social impacts of the shock to the global economy created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To facilitate the work of transport operators and preserve connectivity by keeping supply chains working as smoothly as possible, UNECE is launching an “Observatory on Border Crossings Status due to COVID-19” which gathers all updated information regarding border crossing limitations worldwide.
This online observatory will provide available information on the situation, updated directly by countries - national customs’ focal point and national members of the International Road Transport Union (IRU); the transport sector; and the European Commission.
In addition, UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova stated: “UNECE hosts all the United Nations international conventions governing inland transport, which are key to ensure and maintain efficient border crossing and transit procedures. I urge all countries to facilitate the flow of goods, in particular essential products, to the maximum extent possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make full use of existing international cooperation mechanisms to adopt, wherever possible, coordinated measures.”
“I also encourage them to actively use the UN eTIR/eCMR systems and other tools that allow the exchange of electronic information about the flow of goods across borders without physical contact. Specific efforts should be made to maintain transit freight transport for landlocked countries, which are already at a disadvantage and suffer higher costs due to their geographical position” she concluded.
Note to editors
The Observatory will include links to different “hotlines” (IRU, EU etc), in case users have urgent questions that need answers (expiration of VISA etc).
It will also list the policy principles promoted by UN border crossing conventions, helping to ensure the efficient and effective transportation of goods and people in all regions.
There are some 3.5 million companies in the world offering road transport services, represented by the International Road Transport Union (IRU).
In the UNECE region, for the 42 countries with available data, road transport accounted for 64.47 % of the total inland freight transport in 2018, followed by rail (32.4%) and inland waterways transport (3.2%), with huge variations amongst countries.
Freight volumes by mode of transport in 2018, per cent