Archives For International Shipping

Blockchain

T-Mining is currently working on a pilot project that will make container handling in the port of Antwerp more efficient and secure. Using blockchain technology, processes that involve several parties – carriers, terminals, forwarders, hauliers, drivers, shippers etc. – are securely digitised without any central middleman being involved.

Just getting a container from point A to point B frequently involves more than 30 different parties, with an average of 200 interactions between them. Given that many of these interactions are carried out by e-mail, phone and even (still, nowadays) by fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.

“We aim to do something about this,” says Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining. This Antwerp start-up has developed a solution for a recognised problem in the port. When a container arrives in the port it is collected from the terminal by a truck driver or shipper. To ensure that the right person picks up the right container a PIN code is used. However, the PIN code is transmitted via a number of parties, which of course is not without risk. Somebody with bad intentions can simply copy the PIN code, which naturally can cause great problems.

“We have developed a very secure solution for this,” explains Nico Wauters. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer. For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”

The blockchain solution overcomes these issues, permitting safer and faster transfer of valuable objects, fully digitally and without a middleman. “With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted. Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, thus excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations.”

A pilot project is currently running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties. “We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” says Nico Wauters. “Together with PSA, MSC, a forwarder and a transporter, we ensure secure handling of the first containers on our blockchain platform. Thanks to the City of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year,” Nico Wauters concludes. Source: Port of Antwerp

American Shipper

This year’s American Shipper’s benchmark report examines the extent to which freight buyers rely on the art of negotiation versus the technological tools to refine the procurement process. It also looks at the background dynamics confronting procurement professionals to show why investment in technology is so important. Visit AmericanShipper.com – requires registration to download!

It’s not an option for shippers and 3PLs to ignore the data that’s washing over the logistics industry anymore. And respondents to American Shipper’s most recent Transportation Procurement Benchmark Study, The Art and Science of Buying Freight, recognize that as much as anyone.

Only one quarter of freight buyers feel their organizations are above average when it comes to procurement technology. Nearly half admit they are still using predominantly spreadsheets and email to conduct procurement across modes and regions. Two-thirds are still reliant on EDI. Source: americanshipper.com

THE NEW YOUGrowing electronic commerce (E-Commerce) has provided unparalleled opportunities for and has become a game changer in the international trade arena. It has revolutionized the way businesses and consumers are selling and buying goods with wider choices, advanced shipping, payment, and delivery options.  At the same time, E-Commerce, in particular Business to Consumer and Consumer to Consumer (B2C and C2C) transactions, is presenting several challenges to governments and businesses alike.

The WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC) together with its four Sub-Groups is steadily progressing with the four identified work packages, namely Trade Facilitation and Simplification of Procedures, Safety and Security, Revenue Collection, and Measurement and Analysis with a view to develop recommendations/guidelines on cross-border E-Commerce from a wider facilitation, security or revenue perspective, to collect and disseminate good practices/initiatives, and to enhance/update related WCO instruments and tools.

Given the current focus of the WCO Members and the private sector on this topic, the 215th/216th Sessions of the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) held a whole day dedicated session on E-Commerce on 5 April 2017. During the ‘E-Commerce Day’, the delegates were provided an update with the work done thus far, as well as, the envisaged work by the four Sub-Groups on respective work packages. A number of valuable suggestions were provided by delegates from policy, business process, and operational perspectives to further enhance the WCO E-Commerce Work Programme with tangible and practical deliverables for providing a concerted and effective response to this growing channel of trade.

In addition, four thematic workshops relating to different dimensions of E-Commerce were organized by the Sub-Groups’ Co-Leads together with other partners. Through these workshops, some interesting facets of e-commerce were explored in detail and a number of interim recommendations were made concerning facilitation, risk management, safety and security, revenue collection, and associated capacity building through enhancement partnerships with all e-commerce stakeholders and augmented public awareness and outreach programmes.

In the course of the panel sessions, a number of collaboration success stories were identified, and they will be captured more formally and shared with interested parties, through the WCO webcorner.

The WGEC Sub-Groups will continue carrying out further work and a consolidated set of interim recommendations will be presented to the July 2017 Sessions of the WCO Policy Commission and Council. Source: WCO

For thousands of years, maritime authorities have relied on tip-offs, patrols, investigations and random inspections to find smuggled goods. Today they have a variety of additional methods at their disposal, and one of the most promising is also the most intuitive: looking at every vessel’s historical behavior.

Israeli firm Windward was founded to collect, vet and analyze AIS, along with a variety of other commercial data sources on maritime traffic. Just having access to the massive quantity of data that the world’s fleet generates is not sufficient: it could take weeks for a human operator to sift through the records of just a few hundred ships, and law enforcement agencies need actionable intelligence in real time.

This is where Windward excels. Its system uses proprietary algorithms to find specific ships that may be involved in illicit activity based on a number of “red flag” behaviors. Loitering just off of a village or an uninhabited bay may be a sign that a vessel is engaged in tendering goods or passengers from shore. Similarly, when a ship turns off its AIS transmitter or changes its AIS reporting name near smuggling hotspots, it may be taking on contraband. And a ship with a well-established trading pattern that suddenly heads to a troubled region may be engaged in a new (and not entirely legitimate) line of business.

These behaviors are obvious when Ami Daniel, Windward’s CEO and co-founder, walks through a few examples in a live presentation. The novel development isn’t the signal pattern – it is the fact that his firm can automatically find it, without knowing which ships to examine in advance. It doesn’t matter if a vessel is operated by a reputable company or a known North Korean front – Windward’s system analyzes records for the entire fleet, and if a vessel looks suspicious, it gets flagged.

A few cases illustrate the potential of this approach. In Windward’s best-known example, a Cyprus-flagged reefer with a history of trading between Northern Europe and West Africa headed to a port in Ukraine – well outside its normal pattern. It returned towards the Strait of Gibraltar, but before passing through to the Atlantic, it lingered off of Algeria and Morocco for 12 days. It turned its AIS on and off multiple times in busy shipping lanes during this loitering period. Windward notes that this region is at high risk for the smuggling of arms and narcotics.

After passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, the vessel headed north towards Scotland, where it arrived on January 14. It loitered again for half a day in a small bay off the isle of Islay – an area without a port for a 4,200 dwt ship. Windward’s system flagged this behavior as a potential sign of a smuggling drop-off, though it is also possible that the ship anchored up to wait out foul weather or to time its arrival.

This particular case made headlines in the UK when Windward told media that hundreds of vessels with suspicious records entered British waters in the first two months of 2017. The story was picked up by the Global Mail, Sky News and the Daily Record, and Scottish politicians called on the authorities to look into the matter: “This requires investigation, certainly by the police and, I suspect, by the security authorities to clarify what’s going on,” said member of Scottish Parliament Mike Russell.

These results capture attention, and Daniel says that the firm is marketing the system’s abilities to multiple government agencies. The kind of smuggling/trafficking behavior that it can identify is often associated with organized crime and the financing of terrorism, so it has a great deal of appeal for intelligence applications as well as maritime security / maritime domain awareness. He suggests that for now, commercial users (traders, brokers and others) are not a target market, nor does he foresee branching out into similar offerings for trucking or air freight. Windward does one thing well – very well – and Daniel expects that it will invest in its core strength for some time to come. Original article published in The Maritime Executive.

International trading involves many participants all around the globe. These participants may not necessarily have the needed trust of all parties, especially at the initial stages, when newcomers join the trade. Blockchain can provide the needed trust to capture key transaction activities as immutable records, as well as storing and sharing encrypted legal and financial documents.

Visibility of transaction records and documents are tightly controlled by blockchain, permitting sharing only among entrusted and allowed parties. In this demo, IBM demonstrates how blockchain may support such an application.

The blockchain solution being built by the two companies is expected to be made available to the ocean shipping industry later this year, according to a joint statement from International Business Machines Corp and the container unit of A.P. Moller-Maersk. It would help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitizing the supply chain process from end to end.

This will enhance transparency and make the sharing of information among trading partners more secure.

When adopted at scale, the solution based on the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger platform has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, the companies said.

“Working closely with Maersk for years, we’ve long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognized the opportunity for blockchain to provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem,” said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry platforms, at IBM.

IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization product, the companies said.

The product is also designed to help reduce or eliminate fraud and errors and minimize the time products spend in the transit and shipping process.

For instance, Maersk found that in 2014, just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organizations, including more than 200 different communications among them.

The new blockchain solution would enable the real-time exchange of original supply chain transactions and documents through a digital infrastructure that connects the participants within the network, according to IBM and Maersk. Source: Reuters

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The U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF) and a coalition representing retailers, manufacturers, truckers, transportation intermediaries and other business groups has asked the Federal Maritime Commission to set new policy preventing terminal operators and ocean carriers from charging unfair fees when uncontrollable incidents such as storms and strikes keep cargo from being picked up from ports on time.

“Recent events involving port congestion, labor strife, an ocean carrier bankruptcy, inclement weather and other disruption events have had crippling effects on U.S. ports and the stakeholders who rely on the efficient movement of goods,” the 25-member Coalition for Fair Port Practices said in a petition filed with the commission. During the incidents, storage and use charges have continued “even though shippers, consignees and drayage providers had no control over the events that caused the ports to be inaccessible and prevented them from retrieving their cargo or returning equipment.”

Cargo owners and trucking companies are normally given a certain number of free days to pick up containers of imported goods from ports after they have been unloaded from ships. After that, they can be charged demurrage, a fee intended to ensure that containers are removed quickly and efficiently. In addition, detention and per diem fees can be charged if the cargo containers and chassis used to haul them are not returned within a specified time.

That system was thrown into disarray this fall when the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping left cargo owners unable to pick up containers on time and later prevented them from returning containers and chassis, says the NRF.

Delays have also occurred during other port disruptions cited in the petition, including the 2014-2015 labor slowdown at West Coast ports and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast in 2012.

The coalition said millions of dollars in fees have been charged during such incidents:

  • A retailer was charged $80,000 because it took up to nine days to retrieve containers when only four free days were allowed.
  • A trucking company was charged $1.2 million after long lines at New York and New Jersey ports kept it from returning containers on time.
  • A transportation company was charged $1.25 million after containers it tried to return were turned away at West Coast ports. The amount was eventually reduced to $250,000 but only a year after the company was forced to pay the fees upfront.

“Shippers, consignees and drayage providers do not create and cannot avoid these events,” the group said. “They cannot control the weather. They do not choose the terminals that carriers use. They are not parties to port labor collective bargaining agreements.”

The federal Shipping Act requires that the fees and related practices be “just and reasonable.” The petition asks the FMC to adopt a policy that would require free days to be extended during times of port congestion, weather-related events, port disruptions or delays caused by government actions or requirements beyond the control of the parties picking up or returning containers. Demurrage and similar fees charged during such incidents would be declared “unreasonable.” In some cases, “compensatory” fees could be charged provided that they did not exceed actual storage or equipment use costs. The proposed policy would apply to ocean carriers and marine terminal operators. Source: Maritime Executive

bascap

Leaders from global shipping firms, freight forwarders, brand owners whose products are counterfeited and industry organizations representing both industries signed a joint Declaration of Intent to Prevent the Maritime Transport of Counterfeit Goods in Brussels last week.

The event marked the first time the global shipping industry and brand owners have made a public commitment to work together to stop the transport of counterfeit goods on shipping vessels.

Initial signatories include the leading global shipping firms and freight forwarders and ten major multinational brand manufacturers, along with the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA), and the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) and Commercial Crime Service (CCS).

More transporters, brand owners and their industry associations are expected to join the voluntary initiative as awareness grows.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, about 90 percent of all international trade is moved around the world in more than 500 million containers on 89,000 maritime vessels. While this represents approximately 90 percent of all international trade, UNODC says that less than two percent of these containers are inspected to verify their contents. This results in enormous opportunities for criminal networks to abuse this critical supply chain channel to transport huge volumes of counterfeit products affecting virtually every product sector.

According to a recent OECD/EUIPO report, $461 billion in counterfeit goods moved through international trade in 2013, with almost 10 percent being shipped on maritime vessels.

Maersk Line and CMA CGM Group, two of the largest global transport companies with approximately half of all global shipping, and Kuehne and Nagel and Expeditors, two of the leading freight forwarding and logistics companies with total revenues of more than $27 billion, were the first in their industries to sign the Declaration.

The non-binding Declaration acknowledges the “destructive impact” of counterfeits on international trade. It calls on the maritime transport industry to address it “through continuous proactive measures, and corporate social responsibility principles.” The Declaration includes a zero tolerance policy on counterfeiting, strict supply chain controls and other due diligence checks to stop business cooperation with those suspected of dealing in the counterfeit trade.

This commitment paves the way for new voluntary collaboration programs between intermediaries and brand owners to stop abuse of the global supply chain by counterfeiters.

“We are proud to be among the first in our industry to sign this historic Declaration,” said Michael Jul Hansen, Customs and Trade Compliance Lead for Maersk Line. “Maersk has been a leader in taking steps to prevent the use of our vessels for the shipment of counterfeit and other illicit goods, and this Declaration is a reaffirmation of our intent to do everything we can to ensure our ships are counterfeit free.”

The Declaration is a direct reaction to the concerns of brand owners that vessels transporting their legitimate products were also being exploited by criminal networks to transport fake versions. This phenomenon was summarized in a landmark report on the Role and Responsibilities of Intermediaries: Fighting Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Supply Chain, published in 2015 by BASCAP. Following publication of the report, BASCAP organized a working group of its members to initiate a cross-sector dialogue with the transport industry to discuss ways to work together to find voluntary solutions. Source: Maritime Executive 

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News 24 reports that the Competition Commission on Wednesday conducted a search and seizure operation at the premises of six cargo shipping companies operating in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) on suspicion of collusion and rate fixing, the body said in a statement.

“The Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect that Hamburg Sud South Africa, Maersk South Africa, Safmarine, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Pacific International Line South Africa and CMA CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa have engaged in collusive practices,” the Commission said.

The companies’ practices aimed to among other things fix the incremental rates for the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa, which was in contravention of the Competition Act.

According to the Commission, the search and seizure operation is conducted as part of an ongoing investigation which was initiated by the Commission based on information from a member of the public.

The companies under investigation transport cargo for import and export purposes across the globe, including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods, garments and footwear.

The customers of these companies are mainly clearing and freight forward agents.

“South Africa is a strategic hub for the trade of goods in and out of the Southern African region. Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” said Tembinkosi Bonakele, commissioner of the Competition Commission.

“Cartels of this nature increase the costs of trading in the region and render the region uncompetitive in the world markets. Such cartels have the effect of significantly derailing the economic growth of the region.”

Reuters reported that Maersk and MSC confirmed the raids and said they were cooperating with authorities. The other companies did not respond to Reuters’ requests for immediate comment.

“The fact that the SACC carries out such inspections does not mean that a company has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour,” Maersk said.

EU antitrust regulators in July accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. Source: News24

containersThe following was penned by a long-time customs acquaintance Aires Nunes da Costa, who has kindly permitted me to post his article titled “Why unpack containers in Durban if you can have containers at your door step in Gauteng within 24 hours?” which first appeared on LinkedIN.

The Tambo Springs initiative involves creating a significantly improved intermodal capability for the movement of freight to and from Gauteng. This is to be achieved by the operational twinning of the inland port with other seaport, inland and cross border locations. The connectivity i.r.o. these twinned locations is achieved via sea, rail, road and air linkages, ideally involving seamless movement of freight between modes.

The Tambo Springs development incorporates a next generation inland port with a state of the art rail terminal facility designed to be developed in phases, with an ultimate capacity of 1 m TEU’S p.a., as well as, a sprinter freight land bridge.

The key elements are as follows:-

Direct Traditional Rail Link to Durban Harbour

The Tambo Springs Terminal will be linked to the Durban Container Terminal which currently handles the bulk of all container freight moving in and out of Gauteng, via an efficient rail service. The fixed rail infrastructure for this link already exists to the Tambo Springs site. This state of the art Terminal facility is designed to significantly increase the rail capacity for container freight to/from Gauteng, while simultaneously reducing real costs and significantly improving levels of service via:

  • a new technology “greenfields” terminal being more efficient;
  • a reduction of congestion issues in and out of the new inland port due to its location;
    improved efficiency of port operations;
  • having the facility serviced by improved rolling stock commissioned by Transnet;
    Sprinter Freight Rail Link to Ngqura Harbour In the Coega IDZ (Port Elizabeth)

In addition to the direct rail link with Durban harbour, the initial phase of this programme involves the twinning of the Coega IDZ and its adjoining Deep Water Container Terminal at the Port of Ngqura with Tambo Springs. This is to be undertaken by means of a Public Private Partnership type structure which utilizes the Transnet capability between the two locations as well as the participation of SARS.

The service level to be achieved for the movement of the freight via this land bridge has a goal of “24 hours” as opposed to the current 3 to 5 days service level achieved at City Deep. This is to be achieved by capitalizing on the creation of high efficiency intermodal activities integrated with the port functions and feeder network.

Truck Freight Movement

The Tambo Springs Inland Port will function as a multimodal logistics gateway serving the Gauteng Catchment area. It therefore provides ease of movement between individual transportation modes in addition to facilitating manufacturing, warehousing and distribution activities.

The operational plan is therefore designed to accommodate long distance (FTL) truck traffic in addition to regional (LTL) freight movement.

The principle truck markets the inland port will attract include:

  • FTL long distance movement of time sensitive freight from other ports or metropolitan areas. This includes both cross docking and stuffing/de-stuffing facilities within the inland port;
  • Rail/truck (intermodal) movement where product utilizing the rail links is transferred to truck in order to each its final destination;
  • LTL truck and Van short distance movement of freight, including a regional metropolitan distribution function.

The next generation inland port therefore capitalizes both on rail and road transportation modes with a focus on increased movement of long distance freight by sprinter rail.

Intermodal Movement

In order to achieve seamless intermodal movement of freight between sea, rail, road and air transport, it is essential to link Tambo Springs with other inland port and hub locations. The creation of such a twinned Inland Port Network provides a means to effectively participate in the Global Supply Chain in a manner which optimizes both existing and new facilities to enhance capacity. Hence, for example, Tambo Springs would be linked to City Deep via rail and road linkages and to other hub locations in Gauteng and elsewhere.

A principle element of this approach is to create an efficient transportation service between all the individual entry/exit ports providing an improved level of service over and above that provided by a traditional network. The key to this is to rethink existing processes with a focus on efficiency savings in terms of the inbound and outbound process flow at Tambo Springs. This has been incorporated into the operational concept and addresses both operational and customs and regulatory efficiency issues as part of the supply chain. Source: Aires Nunes da Costa (Customs & Excise Specialist)

TNPA SpotlightTransnet’s new Spotlight App enables its customers to Track and Trace their containers, adding a valuable service to assist with their day to day planning, to increase operational efficiency.

Available on Android and Apple devices, current features include “Track and Trace”, which is not only focused on containers, but also extended to trucks and vessels. Track and Trace extends across all Transnet Terminals and TFR Navis Facilities.

Soon to be released features will enable our customers to be notified of any operational changes in the various Transnet Terminals, from weather conditions to any congestion issues.  In addition, the “Register Me” feature will enable Transnet to send customers personalised information regarding their specific consignments.

The Transnet Spotlight App is in line with Transnet’s MDS pillars, being Admired, Digital, Agile and Value, Transnet Spotlight is the only app in the industry that provides status of consignments across all Shipping Lines.  Future releases will extend to other industries. Source: Transnet.co.za

Hyperloop could be heading to the Middle East, thanks to a new deal signed on Monday between Hyperloop One and port operator DP World. The partnership calls for a feasibility study of how the nascent, ultra-fast transport technology could improve Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port, but both parties hope that’s just the beginning.

The study will look at the possibility of building a Hyperloop to take freight off container ships arriving at Jebel Ali and transport it via the technology’s system of pods moving through pressurized tubes to an inland depot that DP World plans to build further inland.

“By having a system where a box can be taken off a ship and dropped into the tube or pod, we are moving activity that would otherwise be on the island terminal as well as reducing the size of the terminal you need to build,” said Hyperloop One founding board member Peter Diamandis.

The Los Angeles-based startup says a Hyperloop can fit within Dubai’s existing transportation corridors and could reduce freeway traffic by taking cargo transport trucks off roads. DP World says it can even foresee using a “submerged floating Hyperloop” located next to its huge new terminal built on a man-made island. Source: Hyperloop One

Panama inaugurated the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion on Sunday, 26 June 2016 with the ceremonial transit of the China Shipping Panama through the new neo-panamax Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side.

The $5.25 billion Expansion Program is the largest improvement project in the Canal’s 102-year history, and included the construction of new, larger locks on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides and dredging of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the capacity of the waterway.

Despite challenges facing the global shipping industry, the larger canal is anticipated to open up new routes, services, and market segments, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). Source: gCaptain.com – Pictures courtesy of Panama Canal Authority

contractLaw firm Shepstone and Wylie cautions traders to be well aware of the legal considerations to be taken into account when negotiating an international trade transaction.

When importing or exporting goods, a trader is inclined to conclude a transaction on terms that place the least possible obligations on the trader concerned.

There are a number of separate (albeit related) agreements which form part of an international trade transaction e.g.:

  • Agreement of sale
  • Agreement of carriage
  • Insurance contract
  • Letter of credit or some payment agreement

Under the contract of sale, the main obligations are the effecting of payment on the part of the importer, and delivery of the agreed thing on the part of the exporter. The manner of delivery, passing of risk, obligation of insurance and carriage depend on the terms to which the parties have agreed.

Sale agreements usually deal with the rights and obligations of the parties by reference to Incoterms. Devised and published by the International Chamber of Commerce, Incoterms are at the heart of world trade. Incoterms are standard trade definitions most commonly used in international sales contracts.

The “E” & “F” terms are most onerous for the buyer. Such terms, however, allow the buyer to control the carriage and insurance and should reflect in a lower purchase price for the goods.

The “C” and “D” terms are less onerous for the buyer, but result in a higher purchase price and the seller arranges the carriage, and in most instances, the insurance.

While it is tempting to look for the least onerous incoterm, it may not always be a wise choice if it leaves the party exposed either under the other agreements, or due to consequence that were not considered.

A few commercial benefits to concluding a sale agreement based on Incoterms that obligate a party to bear the cost of insurance and carriage are:

  • An ability to negotiate a lower price or higher purchase price for the goods, depending on whether the party is a seller or a buyer; and
  • If the party has a good relationship with or a preference for a certain service provider, the party is able to obtain insurance or carriage services on terms and conditions more acceptable to it.

A vital consideration when negotiating an international trade transaction access to legal redress if things go wrong (and they often do in trade).

It is important to ensure that a party has a proper understanding of the agreed terms, including both the legal and commercial considerations. A party’s risk must also be considered against the full suit of contractual obligations in order to ensure:

  • The rights and obligations under the different agreements are compatible; and
  • Obvious benefits under one agreement do not pose risks under another.

Legal advice is always desirable in circumstances where a trader feels he does not have a full appreciation of the legal implications of the international trade transactions he is seeking to enter in to. Source: Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys – Quintus van der Merwe

AEO-LogoHere follows an appreciation of AEO within the context of the EU. According to KGH customs consultancy services, being an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) already entails advantages for companies that have invested in doing the work to gain the AEO certification. With the new Union Customs Code (UCC), companies with an AEO permit will be able to gain additional advantages leading to more predictable and efficient logistics flows as well as an increased competitive edge.

Centralised clearance (being able to clear all customs declarations from one central location in the EU) and self-assessment (self-declaration of custom fees, similar to VAT reporting) are two new possibilities under UCC that will be implemented towards the end of the initial UCC implementation period from 1 May 2016 to 31 December 2020. To take advantage of these, AEO will be a prerequisite. AEO-ready businesses will therefore be well positioned to take advantage of these new possibilities when they become available.

Direct AEO benefits, including fewer physical and document-based controls, pre-notification in case of controls, easier access to customs simplifications and other customs authorisations, as well as access to mutual recognition with third countries, will continue to apply under UCC. The same is true of the soft benefits, such as better cross-functional communication and cooperation, improved customs knowledge and better risk management, which often outweigh the direct benefits as detailed by customs authorities.

With the UCC, AEO becomes a permit (authorisation) and all AEO certifications will have to be reviewed in line with the new UCC guidelines. Much is recognisable from before, but there is an additional competency requirement that is realised through either experience and/or professional qualifications. There is also likely to be more focus on ensuring that AEO applicants have robust routines that reflect their business, and that those routines are known in the business and used on a day-to-day basis.

Ever since the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certification was launched in 2008, many companies have been trying to evaluate whether to go for AEO or not. What are the benefits? How long does it take to become certified? Can we do it ourselves or do we need some help? What do we really gain by being AEO? This has sometimes stopped companies taking active steps to get ready for AEO.

Furthermore, some AEO-certified companies have felt that they have been exposed to more controls after AEO certification than before. In other instances the initial certification was fairly easy to achieve, but it then proved much harder to retain at a subsequent audit because routines were not being kept up to date or there had been insufficient internal controls and reviews performed in the business.

Our experience shows that companies that did a thorough job at the time of certification and that also afterwards had a genuine focus on maintaining knowledge, following routines and updating documentation as and when appropriate, have been able to benefit from improved customs management to a greater extent than they first envisaged.

KGH opines there are six situations where being AEO could be beneficial for a company:

  • Freight forwarder serving customers with logistics flows to and from the EU.
  • Strong business links with countries where the EU either has mutual recognition or is likely to have it in the not too distant future.
  • Businesses with many permits that will be reconsidered as part of the transition to UCC, where being AEO may facilitate the reconsideration process for other customs permits.
  • Large customs guarantee, which may be able to be reduced as a result of being an AEO.
  • Interested in centralised clearance and self-assessment that will be introduced towards the end of the UCC implementation period.
  • Interested in raising customs knowledge in a business, in order to better manage risks and be able to take advantage of business opportunities connected with international trade.

Here AEO can also be seen as a seal of quality. Source: kghcustoms.com

VGMWith under one month to go until the SOLAS verified gross mass (VGM) regulation enters in force, less than 15% of International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member States have issued guidelines on how they plan to enforce the amendment, according to the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA).

The amendment, which will enter into force on July 1, 2016, will require shippers to obtain and declare the VGM for each packed container before it can be loaded onto a ship.

Captain Richard Brough, technical advisor to ICHCA International, said: “As July 1 approaches we see an increasing number of terminal operators announcing the service options they will offer to shippers to facilitate determining the VGM of export containers.”

Despite the efforts of lifting equipment suppliers, carriers and forwarders to engage positively and identify the most appropriate way to comply, Mr Brough said that sadly, where compliance is a shared responsibility, communication between all the different parties has too often been “acrimonious rather than collaborative”.

As a result, contingency planning is now crucial for all stakeholders to avoid a potentially disastrous impact on the container supply chain, he added.

It was suggested at a recent ICHCA seminar that the key to successful implementation of the VGM requirements is close communication and co-operation between governments and all industry stakeholders.

Mike Yarwood, claims expert at TT Club, said: “Behavioural change through all aspects of the supply chain is required. Weight is a relatively small element of broader initiatives to engender safety and improve operational performance.” Source: Port Strategy