The Babylonian confusion of pre-arrival information filing

More and more customs authorities demand electronic cargo information prior to the arrival of an airplane. In the last few months Croatia and Israel joined the club.

And many more countries are queuing up for access. The challenge for forwarders, shippers, and airlines is growing.


International security concerns are increasingly driving governments to tighten controls and demand advance notice of import, export, and transit freight passing their borders. In parallel, more and more custom organizations require electronic customs clearance to replace paper documentation. These measures place a heavy burden on cargo carrying airlines as well as ground handlers, forwarders, and shippers. They have become virtual non-tariff barriers to international trade. Non-compliance leads to freight being blocked or delayed with subsequent additional supply chain costs for storage, insurance, processing etc.


Although customs authorities worldwide are all heading in the same direction under the guidance of the World Customs Organization (WCO) their requirements are very diverse. Only the EU, Switzerland and Norway have established common rules for advance electronic import and export information (ICS, AES). But even here messaging specifications may vary. In addition, the USA, Canada, Nigeria, Mexico and Ethiopia, just to name a few, demand pre-arrival information today but in different formats and information details. And some time planned in 2014 the USA will complement the compulsory AMS requirements with Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) cargo data filing demands. Furthermore, numerous countries in Latin America, the Middle East, CIS, and Asia are currently also working on defining standards for pre-arrival customs cargo data filing. To keep up-to-date and remain fully informed is very challenging for all supply chain partners.


Responsibilities and costs

Most states place the responsibility for complying with advanced customs information legislation on the carrier. In India, this obligation is placed on carriers and forwarders. And in some countries the onus is on AEOs (Authorized Economic Operators). The challenge for carriers, ground handlers, and forwarders is to meet these requirements cost-efficiently. This also applies to shippers with in-house forwarding departments. The legislation requires intense, effective cooperation and mutual respect by all players in the supply chain, process and business changes. Whilst forwarders, shippers and airlines bemoan the costs of implementing the new customs and security rules they have to bend with the wind and comply if they want to stay in business and remain competitive. 


Quo vadis

The forthcoming WCO Technology & Innovation Forum that will be held in Buenos Aires (Argentina) from November 12 to 14 will focus on the issues detailed above. No doubt we shall hear interesting speeches and extensive expert debates. And there will also be opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and an exchange of best practices. But the Babylonian confusion of technical formats, message protocols, cargo information exchange standards, single and dual filing options etc. will not be resolved –

unfortunately or fortunately for the IT software houses. 


Article by Johan Ruthstrom, Global Proposition Development Manager – eCargo, Champ Cargosystems


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