We have a very stable system that has been in use for more than five years.

Following earlier cargo security regulations put into place in the US, Canada and China, the start of 2011 also saw the introduction of new regulations aimed at ensuring the security of cargo headed to ports in the European Union (EU).

The regulations are all about reducing risk by improving the flow of information about exactly what a ship is carrying. A container ship must file an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)— a thorough report of the number of items a ship is carrying, the consignor and consignee, the weight of the goods and other information—no later than 24 hours before it begins loading in the foreign port, not before entering its first EU port. For ships carrying break bulk and roll-on roll-off (RoRo) cargo—meaning most of what Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) vessels carry—reporting must be made within four hours of arrival in the first EU port.

“However, we send the information five days before our arrival in the first port,” says Joost Somers, WWL’s Head of Customer Service, Region Europe. “If you do the reporting five days ahead, you have a good safety margin if there is a problem in communication with the customs officials—which we saw a lot in the past!”

Most of the extra work involved, Mr. Somers explains, falls on the carrier. “The regulations hold us responsible for reporting to the local customs authorities. This can become quite complicated in Europe because of all the different countries that are in the EU community and all the political issues involved in the regulations’ implementation.” 

Luckily, he says, WWL could draw on its experience with the US regulations, which began as early as 2002. “We have a very stable system that has been in use for more than five years,” he says. “Drawing on our experience with the US regulations and procedures, we could then adapt the system to match the EU regulations.”

“Reporting” in 2011, of course, doesn’t mean handing over a sheaf of papers; WWL partnered with an outside software provider to handle the communications with customs officials. “The company we are working with has established connections with customs authorities in the different countries, and handles communication with customs for other transportation modes besides ocean transport as well.”

This partnership also means that customers can handle the new regulations with the least amount of extra effort. “They should have no problems with delivery delays or other issues, as long as the information they provide is good,” Mr. Somers says. 

But, he adds, the regulations are not yet set in stone; changes dealing with the Modernized Customs Code will be coming in 2013, and there is the possibility that customs authorities will be asking for even more information.

“However,” Mr. Somers says, “we will continue to work together with them to make dealing with the security regulations as easy as possible, and ensure that cargo gets delivered right on schedule.” 

The EU Advance Cargo Security Rules
The new European regulations intended to improve cargo safety in EU ports involve shipping companies sending an electronic ENS, or Entry Summary Declaration, to the customs authorities of the first EU port they will enter. For container ships, this actually means sending the report no later than 24 hours before the ship begins loading in the foreign port it will leave to head for the EU destination; for break bulk and RoRo, the deadline is four hours before arrival in the first EU port. Container ships may not begin loading if documentation has not been sent; other breaches of the reporting requirements may result in penalties and/or the delay of the vessel and its cargo.