EC – Proposes ‘Single Window’ to modernise and streamline customs

The European Commission has today proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called ‘EU Single Window Environment for Customs‘ aims to enhance cooperation and coordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.

The Single Window aims to digitalise and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. Today’s proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level. It launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Digitalisation, globalisation and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU’s borders. To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today’s proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all Member States to play their part in making it a true success story.”

Each year, the Customs Union facilitates the trade of more than €3.5 trillion worth of goods. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs processes, and this will become ever more important as trade volumes keep on increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.

Currently, the formalities required at the EU’s external borders often involve many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.

Today’s proposal is the first step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one Single Window. The Single Window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thereby reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU. 

This is an ambitious project that will entail significant investment at both EU and Member State level, in order to be fully implemented over the next decade or so. The Commission will support Member States in this preparation, where possible, including through funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to enable them to reap the full, long-term benefits of the Single Window. 

Source: European Commission, 28 October 2020

WSC raises concern over New EU shipper rules – ‘could reveal confidential data’

Buyer-sellerCurrent plans to identify ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ before vessel loading could lead to disclosure of sensitive business information, claim carrier, forwarder and cargo-owner representatives, according to the World Shipping Council (WSC).

Latest European Commission amendments to the EU advance cargo data reporting requirements scheduled for adoption later this year need further clarification. The WSC along with shipper and forwarder representatives is opposing the Commission’s proposals in their current form.

The Commission is now in the final stages of completing its proposals for advance cargo data reporting requirements as part of the implementation of the new Union Customs Code which is scheduled to be adopted in May and could then take effect as early as May 1, 2016. But the WSC claims that the Commission’s efforts to find a short-cut way of obtaining the identity of the ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ of the imported goods before vessel loading could lead to the disclosure of sensitive business information.

Instead of getting it from the importer, like the US does, the Commission has proposed regulation that would require this information be provided to the carrier or NVOCC, or in the alternative, to the ‘consignee’, to be filed in an ENS (entry summary declaration) as a condition of vessel loading.

Based on their understanding and experience with shippers, the WSC has advised the Commission that ‘buyer’ and ‘seller’ data may be business-confidential information, and that it is not appropriate to require its disclosure to ocean carriers/NVOCCs or to these parties’ consignees, who may not be parties to the goods’ sales contract.

The WSC also noted that carriers’ current documentation systems had no data fields to capture this information. The Council has been joined by the European Shippers’ Council, the European freight forwarders’ association (CLECAT) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) in opposing the Commission’s proposals.

If the regulation is implemented as proposed, exporters to the EU should recognize that they will be required to provide the identity of the buyers of their goods to their carrier or NVOCC or to their consignees prior to vessel loading, so that this information could be provided by the carrier or NVOCC in its required advance ENS filing. Source: LloydsLoading

For more detailed information in this regard refer to the World Shipping Council’s website – Advance Cargo Shipment Data

2014 – EU’s Revised Trade Rules to Assist Developing Countries

European-Commission-Logo-squareThe European Union’s rules determining which countries pay less or no duty when exporting to the 28 country trade bloc, and for which products, will change on 1 January 2014. The changes to the EU’s so-called “Generalised System of Preferences” (GSP) have been agreed with the European Parliament and the Council in October 2012 and are designed to focus help on developing countries most in need. The GSP scheme is seen as a powerful tool for economic development by providing the world’s poorest countries with preferential access to the EU’s market of 500 million consumers.

The new scheme will be focused on fewer beneficiaries (90 countries) to ensure more impact on countries most in need. At the same time, more support will be provided to countries which are serious about implementing international human rights, labour rights and environment and good governance conventions (“GSP+”).

The EU announced the new rules more than a year ago to allow companies enough time to understand the impact of the changes on their business and adapt. To make the transition even smoother for exporting companies, the Commission has prepared a practical GSP guide.

The guide explains in three steps what trade regime will apply after 1 January 2014 to a particular product shipped to the EU from any given country. It also provides information on the trade regime that will apply to goods arriving to the EU shortly after the New Year.

The changes in a nutshell:

  • 90 countries, out of the current 177 beneficiaries, will continue to benefit from the EU’s preferential tariff scheme.
  • 67 countries will benefit from other arrangements with a privileged access to the EU market, but will not be covered by the GSP anymore.
  • 20 countries will stop benefiting from preferential access to the EU. These countries are now high and upper-middle income countries and their exports will now enter the EU with a normal tariff applicable to all other developed countries.

For the finer details of the revised EU rules visit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-1187_en.htm?locale=en

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

EC proposes measures to get more freight onto Europe’s waterways

waterwaysforward-wordpress-com_SnapseedThe European Commission (EC) has announced new measures to get more freight onto Europe’s rivers and canals.

It underlines that barges are amongst the most climate-friendly and energy efficient forms of transport but currently they only carry about 6% of European cargo each year.

The new proposals intend to realise the “unused potential” of Europe’s 37,000 km of inland waterways, enabling freight to move more easily and lead to further greening of the sector, as well as encouraging innovation and improving job opportunities.

“We already send 500 million tonnes of freight along our rivers and canals each year. That’s the equivalent of 25 million trucks. But it’s not enough. We need to help the waterway transport industry develop over the longer term into a high quality sector. We need to remove the bottlenecks holding it back, and to invest in the skills of its workforce,” said the EC’s Vice President, Transport, Siim Kallas.

The Commission is proposing to remove significant bottlenecks in the form of inadequately dimensioned locks, bridges or fairways and missing links such as the connection between the Seine and the Scheldt river systems which are hampering the sector’s full development potential.

In August last year, Lloyd’s Loading List reported that a multi-billion euro project, the Seine-Nord Europe (SNE) Canal, to build a 106km, 54-metre wide canal to link the Seine and Scheldt rivers by the end of the decade, had suffered a serious setback, with doubts cast over private investment in the project.

The French government continues to support the SNE Canal despite the conclusions of an audit into its financial feasibility which recommended that it be postponed indefinitely.

It commissioned the over-hauling project which could be presented to the European Commission in its new form in the first quarter of 2014, the aim being to secure greater EU funding than that granted under the initial plans.

The Commission is also proposing action to encourage investment in low emission technologies and to support research and innovation. Source: Lloyds.com

Drop in fake goods seized by EU Customs

Fake goods being destroyed

Fake goods being destroyed

Customs in the European Union (EU) detained almost 40 million products in 2012, suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR), with an original goods retail value of just under €1 billion, according to an annual report published by the European Commission.

The previous year, close to 115 million ’fake’ items had been seized, worth more than €1.27 billion. However, the number of recorded cases for detained goods last year was down only slightly on 2011.
This is thought to be due to the strong growth in small shipments of counterfeit merchandise ordered via the Internet.

Globally, 30% of the goods seized were cigarettes followed by a miscellany of goods (11%), packaging materials (9%), clothing (8%), toys (4%) and perfumes and cosmetics (3%). The vast majority were destroyed.

In terms of the number of cases, most of the detained goods had been shipped by air, post and express, whereas maritime container transport was the main mode for the number of articles seized.

In over 92% of all cases, Customs action was triggered whilst the goods concerned were under an import procedure.

“Customs is the EU’s first line of defence against fake products which undermine legal businesses,” said Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit.

He stressed that the annual report illustrated “the intensity and importance of the work being done by Customs in this field. I will continue to push for even greater protection of intellectual property rights in Europe, through our work with international partners, the industry and Member States.”

China was by far the principal origin of the fake goods. However, other countries were the primary source for specific product categories. For example, Morocco for foodstuffs, Hong Kong for CD/DVDs and tobacco product accessories (electronic cigarettes and the liquid fillings for them), and Bulgaria for packaging materials. Source: EU Commission

Preparing ports for the future –

Siim Kallas - Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network.

Siim Kallas – Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network.

The following article featured in Port Stratetgy and penned by Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of transport policy, offers some sound views on how ports and regional networks ought to harmonise to ensure their competitiveness.

Europe’s prosperity has always been linked to sea trade and ports, which have great potential for sustaining growth in the years ahead. As gateways to the EU’s entire transport network, they are engines of economic development. And more cargo, cruise ships and ferries in our ports mean more jobs.

Europe depends heavily on its seaports, which handle 74% by volume of the goods exported or imported to the EU and from the rest of the world. Not only are they important for foreign trade and local growth, ports are the key for developing an integrated and sustainable transport system, as we work to get trucks off our saturated land transport corridors and make more use of short sea shipping.

Need to adapt

Even with only modest assumptions of economic growth, port cargo volumes are expected to rise by 57% by 2030, almost certainly causing congestion. In 20 years, Europe’s hundreds of seaports will face major challenges in performance, investment needs, sustainability, human resources and integration with port cities and regions.

So our ports need to adapt. Take the next generation of ultra-large vessels that carry 18,000 containers. Put onto trucks, these containers would stretch in a single line from Rotterdam to Paris. To accommodate them, ports need to provide the adequate depth, crane reach and shipyard space. There is also a growing need for gas carriers and gasification facilities.

Efficiency and performance vary a great deal around Europe. Many EU ports perform very well – take Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg, which handle 20% of all goods. But not all ports offer the same high-level service. Port network connections and trade flows are well developed in northern Europe, but much less so the south.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link: if a few ports do not perform well, it affects the sustainable functioning of Europe’s entire transport network and economy – which needs to recover and see long-term growth.

Preparing for the future

Ports must be prepared for the future. This means improving local connections to the wider road, rail and inland waterways networks; fully optimising services to make the best use of ports as they are now; and creating a business climate to attract the investments that are so badly needed if capacity is to expand, as it must do.

Unlike other transport sectors, there is almost no EU ports legislation, on access to services, financial transparency or charging for infrastructure use. Experience from the last 15 years shows that the market cannot solve the problem itself; the lack of equal competition conditions and restrictions to port market access are barriers to improving performance, attracting investments and creating jobs. We need to act.

Our proposal to review EU ports policy focuses on the ports of the trans-European Transport Network, which accounts for 96% of goods and 95% of passengers transiting through the EU ports system. Firstly, if ports are to adapt to new economic, industrial and social requirements, they must have a competitive and open business environment.

Freedom to provide services, with no discrimination, should be a general principle; although in cases of space constraints or public interest, the responsible port authority should ensure that decisions granting market access are transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory. Transparency of public port financing should also be improved, to avoid distortions of competition and make clear where public money is going. This will encourage more private investors, who need long-term stability and legal certainty.

On charging for using infrastructure, where there is no uniform EU model, port authorities should be more autonomous and set charges themselves. But this must be done based on objective, non-discriminatory and transparent criteria. Ports should also be able to reduce charges for ships with better environmental performance.

Staying competitive

We also plan to help our ports stay competitive by cutting more red tape and administrative formalities to boost their efficiency even further. As in many other economic sectors, staffing needs in ports are changing rapidly and there is a growing need to attract port workers. Without a properly trained workforce and skilled people, ports cannot function. The Commission estimates that up to 165,000 new jobs will be created in ports by 2030.

Modern port services and a stable environment must also involve modern organisation of work and social provisions. Many countries have reformed and the benefits of doing so can be clearly seen. Experience in Member States which have implemented ports reforms show that open and proper discussions between the parties involved can make a real difference. So we want to give this a chance first, over three years, to see what can be achieved. If that does not produce results, we will have to consider taking action.

To stimulate resource-efficient growth and trade, Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network. They must make sure they are able to develop and respond to change. This is what the European Commission aims to achieve, for the long-term benefit of the ports sector, local business and the environment. Source: Portstrategy.com

Making X-ray scanning safer

Given recent public outcry regarding airport passenger scanning, I found this scientific report which provides very sensible recommendations in regard to X-ray scanning of vehicle borne commercial cargoes. A recent study commissioned by Economic Commission for Europe provides some key recommendations to ensure improved safety of scanner operators and vehicle drivers. The protection of drivers against sickness and injury arising from their work activities is an important matter, and how to manage the hazards and risks associated with transport activities which are unavoidably connected to the possible exposure of employees to ionising radiation whilst undergoing the cargo/vehicle scanning process was a key question of the study.

Ensuring maximum safety precautions, all stakeholders have a role in enhancing the radiation protection culture within the road transport sector. As it is clear that drivers included in this study are not regarded as occupationally exposed to ionising radiation, the study recommends the following to Customs and Border agencies:

  • Install appropriate information panels, which include pictograms, highlighting that x-ray scanning is being performed and giving clear indications on what the driver should do to avoid unnecessary exposure;
  • At concerned border crossings, make available multi-lingual information leaflets, including pictograms, which describe the x-ray process, risks and safety information;
  • Develop and introduce a mutually recognised x-ray scanning certificate to prevent repeated scanning and thus facilitating and accelerating the control process;
  • Ensure, with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Commission (EC), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO), the correct implementation of internationally accepted x-ray scanning procedures;
  • Ensure that customs officers and x-ray equipment operators are properly trained on the functioning and risks of x-ray scanning machines enabling them to operate the equipment safely and give adequate safety instructions to drivers; and
  • In cooperation with x-ray machine manufactures, to ensure that x-ray equipment is properly maintained.

Source: UNECE – Scientific Study on External Ionising Radiation Exposure during Cargo / Vehicle Radiographic Inspections