The European Union today outlined plans to ease customs formalities for ships transporting goods between its 28 member states.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, said the simpler rules would reduce red tape, cut delays in port and make short sea shipping more competitive with trucking, which dominates transport across the continent.
The Commission said the “Blue Belt” plan, which is due to take effect in 2015, will create a single transport area for shipping.
“Europe is faced with major challenges in terms of rising congestion and pollution,” said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
“We need short sea shipping to fulfil its potential and provide a low cost, environmentally friendly transport solution, taking more goods off [trucks] and off our congested roads.”
The Commission said it is responding to complaints by freight forwarder and exporters that if they choose to send goods across Europe by short sea shipping, the heavy administrative burden at ports causes additional costs and significant delays; ships can wait for hours and sometimes days in ports for customs clearance.
Ships operating services on regular routes within the EU and transporting mainly EU cargoes already benefit from easier customs regulations.
The Commission plans to make the procedures shorter and more flexible and cut the consultation time for member states seeking to apply easier customs rules to 15 days from 45 days at present.
Shipping lines will also be able to apply in advance for customs authorization from member states to launch potential services to save time if markets opportunities arise.
The Commission also plans to introduce by the end of the year a harmonized electronic declaration to enable the 90 percent of ships that carry both EU and non-EU cargoes and call at non-EU ports — for example, in Norway, North Africa and Russia — to provide information about the status of cargoes to customs officials.