Simpler customs procedures for cargo shipping

Brussels has announced two new proposals to ease customs formalities for the maritime transport of community goods, with the aim of reducing in-port delays and improving the competitiveness of the sector. The desire is to extend the single market to the sea.

The first proposal is for a simplified customs regime for those cargo vessels that run on standard intra-EU routes, although the shipping companies that use these routes and that mainly carry EU products can already take advantage of a simplified customs procedures.

Under the new scheme the consultation period for the use of an EU port on a regular shipping route will be reduced from the current 45 days to 15 days. Furthermore, in order to save time, companies will be able to apply in advance for authorisation to call into ports where they may wish to do business in the future.

“It makes no sense that, at the moment, community goods travelling by ship from Antwerp to Rotterdam face the same customs formalities as if they were coming from China”, said European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, in the press conference announcing the measures.

Only a third of goods moved within the EU are carried by shipping while close to 60% still go by road, given the delays caused by customs controls in ports.

This first measure is in addition to those presented by Brussels in May of this year to modernise 319 European ports.

The second proposal from the EU executive foresees the simplification of customs procedures for those ships that dock in non-EU countries, helping to distinguish between EU produced goods and those coming from other countries, in order to allow for faster unloading of European products.

To that end, before the end of the year, an electronic cargo declaration will be created, which will allow shippers to provide information in advance about the cargo they are carrying in order to speed up customs procedures.

Together with the aim of facilitating commerce in the cargo shipping sector by making the customs formalities “shorter, cheaper and more flexible”, the aim is to “protect EU citizens and companies from the entry of illegal goods into the single market”.

The Commission expects the proposal to be approved this autumn and for the harmonised electronic cargo declaration to be able to come into force “from 2015”.

Source: Europa Press