Antwerp port[Updated: Added comments]

Terminal operators handling vehicle exports at the port of Antwerp in Belgium have now switched to a paperless web-based system called e-Desk to speed up the processing of customs permits for exit declarations.

The system was introduced by the Antwerp Port Community System (APCS) back in 2012 for container movements, as part of a collaboration project with the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, and has now been extended to rolling stock. Terminal operators ICO and AET are now participating at Antwerp. Back in February this year, ICO signed up at Zeebrugge along with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) for ro-ro shipments.

All exports of new and second-hand vehicles, and exports of containers can now be declared electronically, removing the need for hardcopy declarations and accompanying documents. John Kerkhof, director of Antwerp Port Community System told Automotive Logistics, "The big advantage of this automated process is that exporters of vehicles via the port of Antwerp (or Zeebrugge) do not have to handover a paper document to Customs anymore. The confirmation of exit out of the EU is set automatically upon departure of vessel. Processing time is thus reduced to machine to machine communication, which can in fact be ignored."

Antwerp handled 1.3m vehicle units last year, with more than 936,000 accounted for by exports (a breakdown between new and used cars was not available). Total ro-ro units (excluding containers) amounted to more than 4.5m, with exports here at almost 2.6m.

Each company exporting goods has four obligatory data items that form part of the export declaration, and these can now be entered in the e-Desk system. They are: the vehicle identification number (VIN - the 17-character chassis number); the movement reference number (MRN) of the export declaration; the type of document (export or transit, as they are processed in different systems); and the customs office of the point of exit (Antwerp or Zeebrugge).

According to the port of Antwerp, the advantages of e-Desk include the uniform procedure in both ports, and the uniform customs reporting, which permits faster processing of the exit declaration. This in turn means that exporters can quickly and easily demonstrate that their goods have left the EU, which is necessary for the VAT administration.

The collaboration between the ports in the automation of port processes is the result of smooth arrangements within the Cargo Community System, a non-profit organisation in which the ports of Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge collaborate with the Customs department, the Flemish government, and the waterway operators, W&Z and De Scheepvaart, to streamline the flow of information along the logistics chains.