What new EU requirements for air shipments mean for airlines, exporters

The European Union last week set new requirements to transport goods to or through the European Union including Norway and Switzerland.

According to the EU, from 1 March 2023, all freight forwarders, air carriers, express couriers, and postal operators transporting goods to or through the European Union (EU) (including Norway and Switzerland) will be required to submit advance cargo information in the form of a complete Entry Summary Declaration (ENS), under the second phase of the EU’s new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme – Import Control System 2 (ICS2) Release 2.

In a statement by the European Commission, it explained that economic operators involved in handling, sending, shipping and transporting cargo, express or postal consignments to or via the EU by air have to comply with new advance data reporting requirements for pre-loading and pre-arrival customs risk assessments.

“By collecting data about all goods entering the EU prior to their loading and arrival, ICS2 supports effective risk-based customs controls while facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU’s external borders. ICS2 will simplify the movement of goods between customs offices at the first point of entry and final destination in the EU. For economic operators, ICS2 will streamline requests for additional information and pre-departure risk screening by customs authorities.

“In addition to air carriers’ ENS filing responsibilities under the multiple filing regime of Release 2, freight forwarders, express couriers, and postal operators will also be legally responsible for providing data. They either have to share it with the air carriers, who will then complete the ENS filing requirements, or submit the data directly to ICS2. Postal operators and express couriers, who have previously been declaring partial information regarding inbound shipments (under ICS2 Phase 1), will now also be required to coordinate with their air carrier to submit all required data,” the European commission explained.

Those in the air transport sector who are currently filing advance cargo information into the Import Control System (ICS) will have to gradually start filing this data into ICS2 during the operational roll-out of Release 2. Economic operators are also advised to prepare in advance for Release 2, in order to avoid the risk of delays and non-compliance.

Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer – Mainstream Cargo Limited said with the new requirement, international airlines operating in/ out of EU from Nigeria are largely compliant to the requirements of the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) because many of these airlines are EU based such as Lufthansa (LH), Air France (AF) or of EU affiliate like British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) whereby these airlines need to submit advance cargo information.

Read also: European Union sets new requirements for inbound air shipments

Adewale said the real goal is to go to the next layer of economic operators that are principally Freight Forwarders and Customs Agents, adding that the postal service and courier service operators have been largely captured under the ICS 2 Release 1.

“In my opinion the EU wants to have a robust database and profile the ‘Economic Operators’ and also unmask and note the kind of cargoes associated with them. They had done similar security, profiling and validation of 3rd party agents (Ra3) such as Aviation Ground Handling Companies whereby their processes have to meet certain EU standards of 3 dimensional X-Ray, Electronic Trace Detector (ETD) amongst many other requirements and documentation,” he explained.

According to him, the Freight Forwarders and Customs Agents who are Economic Operators in the Cargo shipping value-chain now need to be captured within their EU system to further safeguard and assure the integrity of all cargoes or consignments entering into their region

He explained that it is good that the EU has granted 12 months to ensure compliance to this new regulation but the issue would be the area of support and/ or training that will be required in understanding and operating the ICS 2 Release 2 and generating the EORI Number.

“Could this be another revenue generation drive to boost the income and wellbeing of EU trainers or validators because complying would come at a significant cost to Nigerian ‘Economic Operators’. EU validators for Ra3 for example charge very significant fees, travel costs up to two or three times before a ground handling agent could be validated. Now, the pool of resources is much wider knowing the number of freight forwarders and licensed customs agents in Nigeria.

“Lastly, how will Nigerian freight forwarders successfully operate within this EU new system knowing many of these types of ‘Economic Operators’ perform what is called Groupage or in order words Consolidate Cargoes into EU. How these types of ‘Economic Operators’ will be able to accommodate or operate within these new EU requirements is yet to be seen and would be a daunting challenge,” Adewale added.

To help prepare for the introduction of ICS2 Release 2, the European Commission (EC) says it will make available a conformance testing environment from July 2022 until February 2023, to be able to verify the economic operator’s ability to access and exchange messages with customs authorities through the intended ICS2 trader interface. This conformance testing is mandatory for all economic operators concerned.

Economic operators responsible for filing ENS data to ICS2 will determine whether they have an existing Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. If not, they should contact the EU customs authority of their choice to get this number and to receive support in preparing for ICS2 Release 2. They are also required to evaluate their trade operations for the handling of imports into the EU and contact their selected customs authority to connect and take part in the upcoming Release 2 conformance testing.

The EU Import Control System 2 (ICS2) is a large-scale initiative to enhance customs oversight of the movement of goods prior to their arrival at the EU external borders (air, maritime, land and inland waterways). ICS2 enables customs authorities to identify high-risk consignments that necessitate early intervention, while facilitating legitimate trade into the customs territory of the EU, Norway, and Switzerland.

The system is being implemented in three releases. Having successfully completed Release 1 covering the pre-loading process for postal and express consignments by air on 15 March 2021, Release 2 is the next step in the system’s implementation, and it will go live on 1 March 2023. Release 3 will be implemented from 1 March 2024, requiring operators carrying goods on maritime and inland waterways, roads and railways to comply with the new regulations.

The European Commission is leading the operational delivery of ICS2 in close collaboration with customs authorities in Member States, Norway and Switzerland and industry stakeholders.

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