Documents and digitization of customs procedures


The customs processes, and in particular the efficiency of the procedures for checking and clearing goods, deeply influence the logistics chain and the work of the container terminals inside the port gateways; rapid and efficient customs processes allow to reduce delivery times and costs related to the import export of goods, indirectly contributing to the competitiveness of companies and their supply chains.

In this article, we will discuss main customs documents and some initiatives put in place by Italian monopolized Customs agencies and Monopolies to simplify and digitize customs procedures, for the benefit of trades and economic operators.

To sum up, we will touch the following topics:

  • What are the main customs documents needed?

  • Digitization of customs processes and importance of AEO certification


What are the main customs documents required?

Custom declaration is an act which expresses the will to bind the goods to certain customs procedure and the declaration must be produced and sent before the goods transit through the customs.

Customs  Customs is an extremely important element for international trade and is  regulated internationally, based on customs procedures shared between several  states, as in the case of the European Community, or by commercial agreements  between individual states.Read more


In order to correctly complete the customs declaration, it is necessary to also produce other customs documents, such as invoice, conditions for the return, gross and net weight of the goods, packing list (if applicable), transport document or delivery note and documents of origin, which will then be presented to customs at the time of transit of the goods.

The standard document for sending the customs declaration is SAD (Single Administrative Document) which must be accompanied by all the documents envisaged under the chosen regime for the customs operation.

To reduce and simplify customs formalities, the Customs Agency, implementing the changes to the Community Customs Code, launched the AES (Automated Export System) project in 2006.

The AES system allows electronic tracking and automated control of export operations from the Community territory, making it possible to export in a fully computerized environment and issuing the Export Accompanying Document (EAD), which therefore replaces the paper SAD.


Digitization of customs processes

The AES system is one of the many projects for the digitalization of customs clearance processes promoted by the Customs and Monopolies Agency, as part of the AIDA (Integrated Customs Excise Automation) information system, operating since 2003.

Two options made possible by the digitalization of customs processes, which can greatly reduce the idle times of cargo imported through gateway terminals, are Preclearing and Fast Corridors.


Preclearing consists in the transmission of import declarations while the goods are still traveling to national ports on board of ships from abroad, allowing customs, and other administrations involved in the customs office, to anticipate risk analysis and release, before arrival, the goods for which no physical control is required.

The main benefits of this practice consist in the reduction of the times of permanence of the containers in port (with consequent saving on costs) and in the greater punctuality to the intermodal appointment thanks to a timely planning of the port logistics for the collection of the containers.

For example, as reported on the Customs Agency website, already in the first months after activation, the average storage time of containers decreased from 5.5 to 3.5 days in La Spezia (the first Italian port to activate customs clearance in 2014) and in Genoa it went down from 5 to 4 days.

The Customs and Monopoly Agency has recently made available a new tool to strengthen customs preclearance: Smart Terminal will be launched in an experimental phase at the beginning of 2021.

Smart Terminal  Smart Terminal is a procedure that allows the anticipation of the  documentation presentation and validation of the ships’ manifest and subsequent  customs operations. Read more


Fast Corridors

Conceptually on the opposite side of Preclearing lies the Fast Corridors initiative, designed in 2015, which allows the customs clearance of the goods directly in an inland destination logistics node.

Fast Corridors provide handling, by road or train or on intermodal routes, of containers from the landing point to the temporary storage warehouse identified at a destination logistics hub, without the release of the transport document (T1).

The main benefits of this initiative consist of decongestion of port areas, reduction of the time spent by containers in the port (with consequent cost savings), reduction of travel times, greater safety (thanks to the combination of documentary controls and physical flow monitoring of goods), digitalization of the process (internet of logistics), possibility for companies to integrate customs formalities with their own company logistics procedures.

Fast Corridors  Fast Corridors are immaterial infrastructures, enabling the transfer of  foreign goods without the emission of the T1 customs document.Read more


The AEO certification

In conclusion, it is good to underline that many of the simplification and computerization initiatives of customs procedures require, in addition to a strong competence in customs matters, also the status of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO).

The 2013 Union Customs Code and subsequent regulations introduced the distinction between two types of AEO authorization: AEO / customs simplifications (AEOC) and AEO / security (AEOS). These two types of authorization can be combined and can therefore be held simultaneously by acquiring the status of AEOF (Authorized Economic Operator Full) which guarantees the benefits associated with both authorizations.

To obtain the recognition of the AEO status, it is necessary to request the activation of a specific audit action by the competent Customs Office, which will verify the suitability of the request based on the following criteria:

  • compliance with customs and tax legislation and the absence of serious crimes associated with economic activity

  • having an effective system for managing commercial and transport records

  • guarantee of financial solvency

  • adequate practical standards of competence or professional qualifications (for AEOC authorization)

  • adequate safety standards (for AEOS authorization)

The AEOF status entitles you to some extremely interesting benefits for the reduction of time and customs checks, such as, for example:

  • Possibility of using Fast Corridors

  • Facilitated procedure for obtaining customs simplifications

  • Reduction of document, scanner and physical checks

  • Priority treatment of shipments selected for inspection

With these advantages in mind, the companies of the Contship Italia group immediately took action to acquire the AEOF certification, thus being able to combine and offer their customers their experience in the sector and the benefits deriving from the certification.

Specifically, LSCT - La Spezia Container Terminal was the first company of the group to obtain this certification, in July 2013, followed by RHM - Rail Hub Milano, Hannibal and Oceanogate, which obtained AEOF certifications in April 2016.

Contship Italia Group acts as a link between sea and land, simplifying customs processes for customers. The Group‘s customs support includes:

  • Preventive customs advice and customs planning

  • Assistance in carrying out customs formalities in the port and back port area, as well as at customer logistics sites

  • Complete assistance in obtaining all the necessary certifications for the purpose of importing non-union goods (veterinary, sanitary, phytosanitary, radiometric certifications, etc.

  • Development of IT solutions, dedicated to paperless management of customs processes

  • Management of temporary storage facilities

The added value that the group's customers have recognized over the years is directly linked to the perceived benefits and can be summarized in two main elements:

  • The complementary work carried out by the (customs) offices at the port and back port allows the completion of customs operations quickly and safely, without dispersing information.

  • The integration in technological and communication terms of the entire customs logistics chain triggers a synergistic mechanism useful for providing a solid and fast service, which takes the form of time reduction thanks to the prior availability of information between the parties involved in the logistics process, from the arrival terminal to the final delivery.


Would you like to learn more?
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