What is eCustoms and what are the benefits?

  • Date: 24/04/20
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eCustoms refer to the systematic and automatic exchange of customs information (e.g. information exchange on empty trucks, risk assessment, data matching, results of customs controls) between economic operators and customs authorities.  

When economic operators move goods across borders and interact with customs offices, they experience delays caused by the lack of automation and absence of timely communication between customs offices. As a result, end buyers also experience delays in getting their goods. This happens because:  

  • Customs information is not received on time, creating ineffective safety and security risk management for customs and businesses;
  • Automatic data matching is not set (e.g. to match if declaration info in the departing country is the same as in the arrival country);
  • Pre-arrival information is not exchanged (e.g. when cargo comes to the border crossing point, the carrier must wait until the risk assessment is completed before crossing the border).

The eCustoms activity helps to facilitate these issues by providing businesses and governments with necessary cooperation models (e.g. cooperation processes, communication systems), allowing efficient information sharing and exchange. It optimises interaction with customs offices to decrease trade costs for businesses and deliver goods and services faster. 

The EU4Digital Facility analysed existing solutions, and their applicability in the region, selecting the SEED (Systematic Exchange of Electronic Data) solution for the eCustoms pilot as the best fit. SEED has been implemented by Customs Administrations of the Western Balkan countries, financed by the EU, and offers:

  • Proven security
  • Data standards
  • Easy adaptation to national systems 
  • Flexibility in terms of functionalities and data sets exchange requirements.  

In the Western Balkans, SEED has successfully tackled the following problems:

  • Undervaluation through swapping of invoices and decrease of customs value at entrance
  • Fake confirmation of exits of loaded trucks (violations related to VAT refunds)
  • Irregularities related to the (mis)use of transport documents (e.g. ATA carnets)
  • Detection of serious customs offences like smuggling of tobacco and drugs. 

The goal of the pilot is to enable the exchange of electronic customs data between the customs authorities of Eastern partner countries and EU member states. This is the starting point when initial (limited) functionalities and data sets are piloted.

The eCustoms pilot was already successfully tested between customs administrations of Belarus and Lithuania. Find out more: Pilot for export dataset exchange goes live between Belarus and Lithuania.

The piloting facilitates the improvement of process of customs data exchange between customs offices, shows the potential progress in customs clearance, risk assessment, and cooperation between cross-border customs administrations. As a result, recommendations for full scale solution implementation are prepared to enable and replicate the solution across the region.