• Service: Tax, Global Indirect Tax
  • Type: Regulatory update
  • Date: 7/8/2013

EU - Proposals to ease customs for intra-EU shipping 

July 8: The European Commission today announced plans to ease customs formalities for ships and to reduce delays in ports.

According to today’s EC release (IP/13/652), freight forwarders and exporters have complained that if they chose to send goods across Europe by “short” sea shipping, the heavy administrative burden at ports causes additional costs and significant delays. It is asserted ships can wait for hours and sometimes days in ports for customs clearance—thus making the maritime sector less attractive compared to other forms of transport.


The EC plan—Blue Belt: a Single Transport Area for Shipping—sets out two key proposals to ease formalities for shipping by amending the existing customs code (Customs Code Implementing Provisions—CCIP).

  • Easing customs formalities for intra-EU shipping - Shipping companies, using a regular route within the EU and transporting mainly EU goods, may already benefit from lighter customs procedures (under the “regular shipping services” procedures). New proposals would upgrade the regular shipping services to make the procedures, shorter and more flexible. The consultation period for EU Member States would be shortened to 15 days from 45 days; companies would be able to apply in advance for an authorization for EU Member States where they may want to do business—thus saving time if that business opportunity arises.
  • 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 EC proposes to improve customs procedures by putting in place a system that can distinguish between the EU goods on board (i.e., for quickly customs clearance) and the non-EU goods on board, which must go through the appropriate customs procedures. The EC intends to propose before year-end a harmonized electronic cargo declaration that will use an "eManifest" system to allow the shipping company to provide in all manifests (intra-EU and extra-EU) information on the status of goods to customs officials.

The EC anticipates these two measures will be implemented by 2015.

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