EU customs formalities in the shipping industry are set to be eased following an announcement by the European Commission that it is to implement the Blue Belt plan to encourage greater efficiency in its sea freight services.
Already heavily criticised by shipping companies and freight forwarders, the EU has held that short-journey EU sea freight must go through the same customs procedures as non-EU freight if the ship carrying it passes beyond the EU’s 12-mile off-shore boundary.
The new Blue Belt will mean much of the existing red tape will be cut, drastically reducing the risk of delays and creating a more efficient and cost-effective import and export sector.
According to the EU Commissioner responsible for Taxation and Customs, Algirdas Semeta, the belt will make sea shipping a more attractive option for the freight forwarding industry, who currently favour road transport over all other forms.
”The Blue Belt will bring the single market to the seas,” he said. “The proposed measures will greatly benefit shipping as they will reduce costs, simplify administration, facilitate trade and create a level playing field between all types of transport. At the same time, this will simplify customs’ work so they can better target security risks and focus on protecting our citizens and businesses.”
Speaking of the announcement, EU Vice President and Commissioner responsible for Transport, Siim Kallas, highlighted the need to ease customs formalities and maximise the potential of sea freight services.
“Europe is faced with major challenges in terms of rising congestion and pollution,” he said. “We need short sea shipping to fulfil its potential and provide a low cost, environmentally-friendly transport solution, taking more goods off lorries and off our congested roads.”
As part of the Blue Belt plan, which is expected to become a reality by 2015, the EU has made two proposals.The relates to the Regular Shipping Services that already exist within the EU, with customs procedures becoming shorter and more flexible. The consultation period for Member States will be reduced from 45 to 15 days.
A second proposal relates to a new procedure that distinguishes between EU and non-EU cargo where ships that may visit third country (non-EU) ports and so carry both.
To accommodate this, an earlier proposal to introduce an eManifest system is to be adopted before the start of 2014, creating a harmonised electronic cargo declaration facility and speeding up customs procedures.