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Easing customs formalities for ships
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Published on 08-07-13

The Commission has today set out plans to ease custom formalities for ships. The proposals – The BlueBelt Communication – aim to create an area where ships can operate freely within the EU internal market with the minimum of administrative burden while safety, security, environmental protection, as well as customs and tax policies are strengthened.

    Easing customs formalities for ships

    The Communication also proposes the extension of these simplifications to extra-EU voyages by the use of better monitoring and reporting systems.

    The two key elements of the proposal require amending the existing Customs Code (CCIP, Customs Code Implementing Provisions).

    1. Easing customs formalities for intra-EU shipping

    Shipping companies, using a regular route within the EU and transporting mainly EU goods, can already benefit from lighter customs procedures (under the Regular Shipping Services procedures). New proposals, submitted by the Commission in June 2013, will upgrade this Regular Shipping Services to make the procedures shorter and more flexible. The consultation period for Member States will be shortened to 15, from 45 days. And companies will be able to apply in advance for an authorisation for Member States where they may want to do business- to save time if that business opportunity arises. How does this work in practice:

    A UK operator wants to offer a regular shipping service between Felixstowe in the UK, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Copenhagen in Denmark and in the future perhaps to Gdansk in Poland. What does it need to do?

    • contact the UK customs authorities to ask for the authorisation.
    • indicate that this service would run between Felixstowe, Rotterdam and Copenhagen.
    •  indicate that it might include Gdansk in the future.
    • The UK contacts all relevant Member States, i.e. the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland to ask for their permission. Member States will have up to 15 days (instead of the current 45 days!) to answer.
    • After positive replies, the UK grants the final authorisation. This means that for any Union goods on board there will be no need for customs supervision.

    Result: The UK company will be able to offer the service at a relatively short notice. Later on, if it wishes to modify the service and include the port of Gdansk, it can do this without going through a new authorisation procedure.

    2. Easing customs formalities for ships that call in third country ports

    Almost 90% of ships carry both EU and non EU goods and stop frequently at EU and non-EU ports for example in Norway, Northern Africa and Russia. For these ships, the Commission is proposing to significantly improve customs procedures by putting in place a system which can distinguish between the Union goods on board (which should be swiftly discharged) and the non-Union goods on board, which must go through the appropriate customs procedures.

    For this purpose, the Commission will bring forward before the end of the year a proposal to create a harmonised electronic cargo declaration. This new "eManifest" allows the shipping company to provide in all manifests (intra-EU and extra-EU) information on the status of goods to customs officials.

    It is expected that these two measures will make the Blue Belt a reality by 2015.

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    Last update: 08/07/2013  |Top