The United Arab Emirates represents a bridge between the East and West due to its distinctive geographic location. Research conducted by the Danish archaeological mission on Umm Al Nar island adjacent to Abu Dhabi island has proven that this region was a thriving port for around five thousand years and was a center for active trade with the Indian subcontinent. Based on this, the wise leadership established customs systems early on and developed them over time to facilitate trade.
First Stage (1968-1969)
Abu Dhabi Customs is one of the oldest government departments in the emirate. On August 6, 1966, after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became the ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, he issued Emiri Decree No. (2) Of 1966 (A.D), establishing several government departments and appointing heads from Al Nahyan sheikhs and experts to share in shouldering the responsibilities of the nation and citizens. Among these departments were "Departments of Finance, Customs and Ports".
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalid Al Nahyan headed the the departments of Customs and Ports, where the number of employees at the time was only three employees, and there was no pier for ships (vessels), but instead there were cement-filled barrels, forcing ships to stay far from land for workers to wade through sea water to transport goods.
On September 14, 1968 the scope of work expanded and the department's headquarters moved to the new building near the former Clock Tower on Abu Dhabi's corniche, currently the site of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The number of employees in the Customs Department reached fifteen employees.
Second Stage (1970-2002)
This period witnessed a noticeable development. During the period (1970-1973), the premises of Customs Department was still on Corniche nearby the formerly Clock Tower, but the number of employees doubled to reach 71 employees. During the period (1973-1979), the premises of the Department was moved to Bin Brook Building, located in Al- Mina Street, and then was moved to the building of the department of finance, occupying four floors of the building, one of which was used as a warehouse during the period (1979-1984) until it was moved to Abu Dhabi Customs building in Mina Zayed Area in 1984.
During this period, Law No. (3) Of 1982 concerning Customs Clearance was issued setting the conditions for opening customs clearance office and practicing such profession as well as the requirements of such office. Meanwhile, customs competencies were assigned to the Customs Department, which by law reported to the Department of Finance during the year 1984. Law No.(3) 1991 was also issued establishing the Department of Customs and the Department of Finance to make customs independent from the Department of Finance.
Additionally, this period marked a big leap forward towards establishing the rules and principles governing customs work. Computer system was adopted and strenuous efforts were made to find a cadre having a considerable experience and efficiency on the level of the Department as well as all sections and divisions thereof. Modern scanning devices were also used to help discovering and seizing contrabands and prohibited items. In Abu Dhabi Airport in 1990 four devices for baggage scanning working by X-ray were installed. In 1993 a device for scanning big parcels was installed in the shipping section of Abu Dhabi Airport. On 31/3/1994 Al Ain international Airport was inaugurated to be the eastern window of the country.
During this stage, Abu Dhabi foreign trade revenue from non-oil products, specifically in 1999 amounted to 22.489 billion. Foreign trade revenue from oil products in the first half of 2001 was one billion five hundred and fifty million dirhams.
Third Stage (2002-2008)
This period began with the start of implementing the Unified Customs Law for the GCC countries on 1/1/2002. Work had begun since 1992 to achieve this goal, with this system approved in 1999. The presence of this law had a major impact in unifying customs work among the GCC countries. During this period, the Customs Department merged under the Finance Department. The value of Abu Dhabi's non-oil foreign trade during the first half of 2004 amounted to about AED 18.048 billion, demonstrating the steady increase in the volume of Abu Dhabi's foreign trade under the wise leadership of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,