Digital customs platform simplifies Dutch exports to the United Kingdom

Brexit does not necessarily have to mean long and complex customs procedures for Dutch shippers and carriers with customers in the UK, according to AEB, Bongers Expedition and ChannelPorts. Their digital customs platform can simplify the transport and logistics process.

Although the Brexit situation remains uncertain, one thing is clear: if the United Kingdom leaves the European customs union, exporting companies will have to submit a customs declaration for each shipment. The Dutch customs authorities expect the number of export declarations to increase by a third as a result, and the UK customs authorities are also preparing for the number of import declarations to rise significantly.

For many shippers and carriers, however, filing a declaration is new; they are unfamiliar with the procedures and have little or no customs knowledge in-house. This could lead to delays in shipments, chaotic communication and a lot of red tape – both in the Netherlands and in the UK.

A partnership between AEB, Bongers Expedition and ChannelPorts has resulted in a customs platform that – based on the exchange of a single dataset – enables all stakeholders to be informed at the right time so that they can perform their tasks efficiently. As a result, rather than having to stop at the border, trucks can pass through customs smoothly because the import and export declarations have been completed in advance, say the project partners. This platform has been made possible by digitization and close cooperation with various parties in the countries involved.

Digitization fosters speed and economies of scale

Bongers, an established customs agent based in the Dutch town of De Lier, and ChannelPorts, a UK customs agent, are both using AEB’s customs platform for import and export. Digitization allows for speed and economies of scale, as larger numbers of declarations can be better processed and data from export declarations can be reused for import declarations. Digitization also leads to fewer errors and therefore fewer disruptions, because declarations are immediately approved by customs authorities and inspection authorities. An additional advantage is that cost savings are also achieved, not only because a lot of manual work is automated, but also because the customs agent charges lower rates because of the economies of scale. The costs per declaration are therefore significantly lower than when companies have to hire in a customs agent themselves, the project partners say.

According to the partners, this is also an efficient approach for companies that export flowers and plants. In the Netherlands, such companies are required to obtain a phytosanitary certificate attesting to the health of their products. In the UK, goods with a plant passport require not only an import declaration but also a PEACH pre-notification. Automation offers a solution to this.

Data transfer

To make use of this service, the exporting party merely needs to deliver the data to the carrier, who supplements it with logistics data and then submits it to AEB’s platform. The rest is arranged in close cooperation between the three partners. Bongers takes care of the customs documentation in the Netherlands, while ChannelPorts takes care of the customs declaration in accordance with the local requirements in the United Kingdom – which can change at any time until Brexit actually happens.

The AEB customs platform forms the basis for Bongers to submit the export declaration in the Netherlands and for data to be exchanged with ChannelPorts. If necessary, the PEACH pre-notification can also be done fully automatically via this platform. The platform uses a single dataset for all communication between the exporter, forwarder, transporter, customs agent, customs authorities, inspection authorities and ports. The integrated workflow ensures that all parties receive the necessary data at the right time so they can perform their tasks. New data such as approval certificates and reference numbers are added to the dataset, making them available for subsequent process steps.

According to AEB, Bongers and ChannelPorts, a single dataset means fewer errors, less miscommunication and fewer administrative activities. Moreover, the customs platform offers the possibility to fully automate manual activities necessary to obtain specific certificates. Thanks to this partnership, exporters themselves do not need to have UK licences to import or export goods.

Exporters can contact Bongers Expedition, tel. +31 (0)174 61 44 16, if they are interested in more information and prices.