The Port of Barcelona incorporates improvements in customs procedures

The launching of two customs initiatives – the EU Union Customs Code and the Customs one-stop-shop in Spain, with the Port of Barcelona participating in its pilot project – opens up a new scenario for importers, exporters and logistics operators.

The EU’s Union Customs Code, which will come into force provisionally on 1 May 2016 and be finally implemented across the EU in May 2019, aims to harmonise customs policies throughout the Union and is a very important step towards achieving a Customs Union. The standardisation measures relate to issues as diverse as the establishment of a common system of risk management or the unification of tariff measures.

The Code will simplify and harmonise customs procedures throughout the EU, unifying telematic procedures and implementing Centralised Clearance, in other words, it will be possible, for goods entering the EU in one country, to perform clearance in another EU State. It will also merge all customs codes in force in the 28 Member States to date in one single standard. The Union Customs Code has developed specific regulations for all customs procedures (applications, granting of authorisation, declarations, notifications, etc.) which will progressively come into force over the next three years. This entire process will culminate in 2020, when the Europe-wide Electronic Customs system goes live.

Harmonising administrations

The Code focuses particularly on the adaptation and harmonisation of the various systems to enable electronic communication between the various authorities (Customs and para-customs services of the Member States) and between these and operators across the EU; on simplifying customs procedures and processes; and on applying the Code as a regulatory standard for customs procedures to replace other laws and regulations.
Its launch represents a significant boost to the implementation of the Electronic Customs system throughout Europe which in practice will lead to the disappearance of the paper SAD (Single Administrative Document), used mainly to manage import, export and transit documentary procedures. The possibility to perform customs procedures on line with any customs office in the EU, regardless of the entry point (port, airport, road) will enhance competition between European operators, especially AEOs (Authorised Economic Operators) and similar figures, and will open up new possibilities for importers and exporters.

Customs one-stop-shop

The other initiative improving customs procedures at the Port of Barcelona is the Customs one-stop-shop launched on 20 January 2016 by the Spanish Tax Agency. This is a pioneering project in the European Union and aims to concentrate documentary processes associated to Customs and para-customs inspection procedures and processes generated by goods coming in and going out of Spanish territory. The key aim of this initiative is to coordinate inspections by Customs and Border Inspection Services. Thus, it was necessary to modify documentary interchange procedures and to develop the necessary applications to exchange and share information among all stakeholders. The first pilot projects were launched for import container traffic at the maritime customs offices of Barcelona, Bilbao, Tenerife and Vigo-Marín.

The Customs one-stop-shop allows logistics operators, freight forwarders, customs agents, etc. to perform all the various customs procedures and border inspection services required for the passage of goods electronically and through a single portal. For foreign trade operators, the implementation of the Customs one-stop-shop facilitates planning of import operations, since it makes it possible to obtain the certificates required for each operation and in particular to anticipate the steps that until now had to be taken at various ministries – Tax and revenue and Public administrations; Economy and Competitiveness; Health, Social Services and Equality; Agriculture, Food and Environment; Public Works – thereby shortening processing times and reducing paper documentation.

Anticipating tasks and coordinating inspections

In this new procedure, operators can submit a prior SAD (before the ship arrives at the port) and the code identifying the goods will allow Customs to determine which Border Inspection Services are empowered to inspect the goods. Each service decides on the type of inspection and, if more than one has to perform a physical inspection, they can coordinate to work together. This approach ensures coordination of positioning and joint inspection of the goods in the same place and at the same time by all the administrations, avoiding the costs and time involved in a container being subjected to a physical examination on more than one occasion.
The Spanish Tax Agency has estimated that within three years, when the Customs one-stop-shop is fully implemented, cost savings will be generated for the various international traders to the tune of 1.66 billion euros.

Source: Port of Barcelona