Shippers and freight forwarders fearing complicated and lengthy customs procedures after Brexit don’t need to worry. AEB, a leading provider of software for global trade and supply chain management, is offering a central customs platform with a network of customs brokers that is used for this purpose, enabling goods to move easily and efficiently between the continent and the UK, even after Brexit. Bongers Expeditie and ChannelPorts demonstrate how it’s done.
The uncertainty and lack of clarity around Brexit will remain for now. But one thing is clear: if the UK leaves the EU Customs Union as part of the Brexit process, companies moving goods across British borders will have to submit customs declarations each way. As a result, the volume of customs declarations in the UK is expected to increase fivefold. Dutch customs authorities expect the number of export declarations on their side of the Channel to increase by a third.
But because many shippers and carriers have never had to file a customs declaration, they are unfamiliar with the procedures and have little or no customs knowledge. This can lead to shipment delays, unstructured communication and a lot of red tape, not just in the UK, but in any EU member state the UK trades with.
In meeting this challenge, the cooperation between AEB, Bongers Expeditie and ChannelPorts is truly unique. Integrated on the AEB customs platform, users exchange a single dataset to ensure all involved parties are informed at the right time. This empowers all parties to perform their tasks efficiently. As a result, trucks no longer need to stop at the border but can continue their journey uninterrupted, with export and import declarations already completely processed in a timely manner.
Lower costs and shorter turnaround times due to digitisation
Digitisation and collaboration beyond company and country borders are key to success for AEB, Bongers and ChannelPorts. As established customs brokers, Bongers (based in the Netherlands) and ChannelPorts (based in the UK) use the AEB customs platform for both export and import. Integration and digitization deliver speed and economies of scale, because larger numbers of declarations can be better processed and data from export declarations can be reused for import declarations.
The automation also results in fewer errors and therefore fewer disruptions, as declarations are approved directly by customs authorities and other authorities. This digital customs setup drives significant cost savings not only due to the automation of manual tasks but also because of transactional savings on customs broker fees, based on economies of scale. In other words, with this unique service via the AEB customs platform, per-declaration costs are significantly lower.
The service is also an efficient choice for companies that are involved in moving perishable goods such as flowers and plants. In the Netherlands, moving flowers and plants requires a “phytosanitary inspection” and associated certificates to ensure compliance with official product health regulations. In the UK, goods subject to plant passports require not only customs declarations, but also “PEACH”-system pre-notifications. Both Bongers and ChannelPorts have extensive experience with all relevant processes and the required documentation. Automating the declaration process while meeting all these requirements further supports flawless handling of goods on both sides.
How does it work in practice?
It’s simple: the exporting party only has to submit the data to the carrier, who completes it with logistics data and then sends it on to AEB’s customs platform. The rest is taken care of in close cooperation between the three parties. Bongers manages the customs documentation in the Netherlands and ChannelPorts manages the customs declaration in the UK – both in accordance with respective local requirements. In the UK, this also includes ongoing government’s system changes and any new developments under Brexit.
AEB makes the central customs platform available for Bongers to file their export declarations in the Netherlands and to facilitate the data transfer with ChannelPorts. The platform also automatically pre-notifies involved systems such as PEACH, if necessary. The platform uses a single dataset for communication between exporter, forwarder, carrier, customs agent, customs authorities, inspection authorities and ports. The integrated workflow ensures that all parties receive the required data and perform their tasks at the right time. New and complementary data such as approval certificates and reference numbers are added to the dataset to ensure completeness for the next process steps.
One dataset means fewer errors, less miscommunication and less administrative work. In addition, the powerful scope of AEB’s customs platform also makes it possible to fully automate the manual actions required to obtain specific certificates. And thanks to the cooperation, exporters themselves do not need to have licenses to import or export goods in the United Kingdom.
One platform with economies of scale
Geoff Taylor, Managing Director of AEB in the UK, is thrilled about this collaboration: “This is great news for exporters and importers. They can work together with several parties on customs declarations via a single platform. This offers economies of scale: as the turnover grows or the business expands, companies do not have to invest in extra manpower to master the involved increase in customs formalities. The end result: more efficient processes that lead to a better flow of goods at lower costs. It’s the customs clearance of the future.”
Director Thea Bongers of Bongers Expeditie expects a lot of interest in this unique service: “We are overwhelmed by questions about exports to the United Kingdom. That’s why we organized a seminar in late February 2019 for as many as 260 people, mainly exporters and logistics service providers, who participated to find out more about meeting Brexit challenges.”
Paul Wells, Director of ChannelPorts, was the main speaker at this seminar and answered many questions about exporting and importing to and from the UK: “We noticed that many companies don’t know their way around customs procedures, such as how to import a shipment and what documents will be required in future. Thankfully we can assist them, and by cooperating with Bongers and AEB, we can offer support to all exporting companies in the Netherlands or elsewhere.”