French Customs staff numbers shrink as inspections become automated

THE number of French customs officials has fallen 25 per cent over the last 20 years to 16,662 with another 300 expected to go next year as surveillance becomes more computerised. Picture: Seanews Turkey

THE number of French customs officials has fallen 25 per cent over the last 20 years to 16,662 with another 300 expected to go next year as surveillance becomes more computerised. Picture: Seanews Turkey

The number of French customs officials has fallen 25 per cent over the last 20 years to 16,662 with another 300 expected to go next year as surveillance becomes more computerised. (Comment: by stark contrast French Doeane still have more staff than the South African Revenue Service, where the Customs compliment is around 2500 officers.)

“Ten years ago, 1.2 million containers a year arrived in the Port of Le Havre, with 560 customs staff and three agents of the competition and anti-fraud service,” said Bertrand Vuaroqueux of the National Union of Customs Officers. “Today, it’s 2.5 million containers, but only 400 staff.”

While the trend is EU-wide, it is more acute in France where the number of seizures of counterfeit goods has fallen by half since 2011 while 33 per cent of goods inspected in 2012 did not comply with EU rules, increase of 22 per cent from 2011.

Even the economy ministry, in charge of customs, hints at an official weakening of overall surveillance, Reuters reports. “The priority is no longer systematically to check vessels in coastal waters but to focus on the most important fraud cases,” it said in the draft 2014 budget.

European customs services are under orders to facilitate the flow of trade and make life easier for companies to avoid hobbling economic competitiveness.

Competition for business among European ports and airports has led to what critics call a race to the bottom between national customs services.

The big winners are Europe’s two largest ports, Antwerp and Rotterdam, where China has invested in making the 12-million-container-a-year megaport on the Maas/Rhine Estuary.

As the EU seeks a string of free-trade deals across the globe, Antwerp is building the world’s largest lock, wide as a 19-lane highway, to accommodate a new generation of giant ships.

Like its rival European ports, Antwerp is under pressure from importers to do checks quickly and efficiently. While only one to two per cent of goods entering Europe are physically inspected nowadays, online checks of digital paperwork are carried out on the basis of risk analysis.

The role of customs has also been changed by the single European market, which allows the free movement of goods inside the 28-nation EU and by globalisation which multiplied international supply chains, and by the economic crisis. Such trends may accelerate with new customs rules having customs declarations made at an office remote from the point of entry of the goods starting next month. “We will have to establish rules of engagement to ensure it doesn’t become a big sieve,” a European Commission source told Reuters. Source: Seanews.com

Major Multimodal Logistics Hub in Belgium

Liege Trilogiport is scheduled to open for business in the final half of 2015 (Picture: Liege Ports Authority)

Liege Trilogiport is scheduled to open for business in the final half of 2015 (Picture: Liege Ports Authority)

Work is underway on a major multimodal logistics hub project in Belgium. Piloted by the inland port of Liège, it is designed to serve as an “extended gateway” to the seaports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

The project will attract around €45 million of public funding from the Belgian authorities and the European Union to finance infrastructure requirements, while initial investment from the private sector is estimated at approximately €115 million.

Located on a 120 hectare site on the banks of the Canal Albert, the Trilogiport project is scheduled to be operational in the second half of 2015. It is expected to create more than 2,000 direct or indirect jobs.

Described as “a tri-modal (river, rail and road) logistics village,” it will comprise a 15ha container terminal, with 1,850 metres of quayside, operated by Luxembourg-based Euroports and its partner, DP World.

Provision is made too to build a rail freight terminal with 700 metres of track to connect Trilogiport with the national rail network. Construction of a road bridge is also planned to provide access to the motorway system around Liège.

Trilogiport will also incorporate 200,000 sq metres of warehousing and distribution space at full build-out. Source: Porttechnology.com

 

Port of Antwerp – Customs seize record cocaine haul

Customs Officers at the Belgian Port of Antwerp seized more than eight tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas originating from Ecuador last week. The cocaine, with a street value of more than US$500 million, were found in a container on Monday in what is the largest drugs haul ever in both Belgium and the Netherlands, and the second largest ever in Europe.

Dutch authorities have made five arrests in connection with the find, with a 46-year old Belgian truck driver and four Dutch citizens currently being questioned by police. Reports also indicate that a 31-year old Customs Officer from Antwerp is suspected to have helped the gang move the drugs out of the Belgian port, where the truck was put under surveillance before being intercepted on the outskirts of Rotterdam.

“The police investigation is now focusing on the final destination for the drugs and the financing,” Dutch News said citing prosecutors. The 20,000 kilos of bananas, which were seized along with the 7,000 packs of cocaine weighing over a kilo each, have been donated to Rotterdam’s Blijdorp Zoo. Source: Porttechnology.com