Free movement of goods is a common thing nowadays, thanks to the EU Commission, but for the maritime sector that reality hasn’t been fully realised, until now. The European Commission has revealed plans to ease customs formalities for ships that are expected to help increase the use of the shipping industry to remove some of the lorries from Europe’s over congested roads.
Known as the Blue Belt, the plans aim to create an area that ships will be able to operate freely, with a minimum requirement of administration in relation to safety, security, taxes and the environment whilst working in the internal EU market. Regular Shipping Services procedures will become shorter and more flexible, reducing the consultation period for Member States and enabling them to apply for an authorisation from countries they intend to do business with in advance, making the shipping sector more attractive to businesses looking to move freight around Europe.
There are also proposals to put a system in place that would recognise EU goods from non-EU, allowing the EU goods to be fast-tracked through customs. This new ‘eManifest’ could mean shipping companies are able to submit information on the goods they’re carrying to customs officials in advance, further streamlining the customs process. With almost 90% of ships carrying a mix of EU and non-EU goods, this could mean the swift discharge of EU freight for forwarding under the new proposals, with the non-EU goods going through the normal customs process.
Siim Kallas,Vice-President, European Commission, said: “We are proposing innovative tools to cut red tape and help make the shipping sector a more attractive alternative for customers looking to move goods around the EU.”
Although it’s yet unclear how the Blue Belt will affect EU ports, the Commission expects the proposals to become a reality by 2015, a move welcomed by the shipping industry as the currently heavy administrative burden at ports can cause additional costs and leave ships sitting in port for hours waiting for customs clearance.
Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, responsible for taxation and customs union: “The Blue Belt will bring the single market to the seas. 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.”