ESC calls upon the European Parliament to improve the weak points in the Customs proposal

The legal framework for EU customs is currently undergoing a reform process. In May 2023, the European Commission proposed the most ambitious and comprehensive reform of the EU Customs Union since its inception in 1968.

Key features of the proposal include:

  • A single online environment, the new EU Customs Data Hub, will allow businesses to submit all necessary information about their products and supply chains for bringing goods into the EU.
  • A new EU Customs Authority will assess information and expertise at EU level to help Member States prioritise the right risks and coordinate their checks and inspections.
  • An e-commerce approach will place the responsibility on platforms to ensure that customs duties and VAT are paid at purchase, eliminating hidden charges or unexpected paperwork for consumers upon arrival of their parcels.

The timeline for implementation is as follows:

  • 2028: E-commerce companies gain access to the EU Customs Data Hub.
  • 2032: All businesses can voluntarily utilise the Hub.
  • 2038: The Hub becomes mandatory for all businesses importing goods into the EU.

Recommendations for the amendments in the legislative proposal

Following an in-depth analysis of the proposed legislation, European Shippers’ Council, together with European Community Association of Ship Brokers and Agents, European Sea Ports Organisation, Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals, and World Shipping Council, identified areas requiring improvement and made several recommendations to the European Parliament addressing the following concerns:

  1. Storage procedures: The proposed reduction of the storage period from 90 days to 3 days could have a detrimental impact on the fluidity of cargo flows (import and export), the competitiveness of EU ports’ transhipment model compared to non-EU ports, and shippers’ effective management of logistics chains. Additionally, it would result in increased administrative and IT costs for terminal operators.
  2. Legal continuity: Until the EU Customs Data Hub is fully operational, the existing UCC secondary legislation and data annexes should remain in place to facilitate the operation of core UCC IT systems for cargo entry into the EU. Without sufficient transitional provisions, economic operators would be unable to utilize these systems and effectively manage these processes.
  3. Cargo security: The proposal’s introduction of new powers to prevent a carrier from unloading goods in case of missing data could significantly disrupt trade and appear unnecessary in light of existing powers to prevent a carrier from loading cargo. To minimize these risks, this power should only be invoked in extremely limited circumstances.
  4. Presentation of goods when advance cargo data is missing: Parties other than the carrier should also be legally obligated to provide missing advance cargo data upon arrival of the goods.
  5. Cargo remaining on board versus cargo for discharge in a port: The current proposal mandates that all cargo on board be placed in temporary storage or under a customs procedure at the first EU port, not where it is ultimately discharged.
  6. Interconnection with the EU Maritime Single Window: The EU Customs Data Hub should enable interoperability with the EU Maritime Single Window environment to ensure that it can be used for the submission of customs formalities.
  7. Customs warehousing and the EU Customs Data Hub: It is essential that terminal operators receive the data required to store goods in a customs warehouse well before the goods reach the port.