Understanding the EU's Import Control System 2 and how to ensure proper preparedness

Bart Mariën

Senior Director - Customs and Trade Compliance, Europe

After the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, the European Union implemented the European Import Control System (ICS) in the safety and security measures framework (with an effective date of January 1, 2011). ICS was implemented to perform risk analyses on goods loaded on whatever means of transport (air, sea, rail, road) before they enter or transit the customs territory of the European Union. 

In 2021, the European Union began the rollout of the ICS2 to replace ICS. In other words, ICS2 is not an upgrade of ICS, but a totally new platform. The rollout will be performed in 3 phases to ensure a smooth transition between both systems with a schedule as follows:  

  • Release 1 - March 15, 2021: Mail/express shipments (pre-loading)
  • Release 2 - March 1, 2023: Air general cargo and Mail/express shipments (full)
  • Release 3 - March 1, 2024: Maritime, Road, and Rail

When a material is transported to the customs territory of the European Union, the stakeholders need to provide details on the transported material before it is carried into the customs territory of the European Union. This information is submitted via the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) or also known as the safety and security declaration, in the import control system (ICS). The European customs authorities will perform risk analyses on the data provided and decide based on this analysis if shipments need to be presented for inspection.  

In the current situation, the carriers bear full responsibility for the ENS submission, while in ICS2 importers and other stakeholders potentially have to add related data by themselves (Release 2 & 3). ICS 2 introduces the ability for multiple supply chain partners to submit data elements for one single declaration (such as 10+2 in the US).  

The main goal of the European Union of the ICS2 implementation is to: 

  • Improve the safety and security measures to better protect the internal market and people against threats. This is done by better identifying high-risk shipments and taking action before they are shipped to the customs territory of the European Union;  
  • Simplify the information exchange between the different stakeholders via one central European database;
  • Facilitate legitimate trade when crossing the European border;
  • Improve the data quality received from the economic operators

The current Import Process in the EU consists of 5 steps:

  1. Lodging the ENS
  2. Notification of the arrival of the means of transport
  3. Presentation of the goods to customs
  4. The temporary storage of the goods before placing the material under a customs procedure
  5. Lodge the declaration to place the goods under a customs procedure

The ICS2 process steps fit seamlessly into the complete import process described above in points 1 through 3. Below is a more detailed description of the ICS2 process and the different steps taken by stakeholders in the process:

  1. Lodge the ENS declaration to customs by the economic operators 
  2. Safety and security risk analysis performed by customs 
  3. Arrival notification of the means of transport by the carrier or his representative 
  4. Presentation of the goods to customs and examination by customs in case of a potential risk 

Who are the affected parties?

In principle, the carrier bringing the goods into the customs territory of the European Union is obliged to submit the ENS for these goods (Art 127 (4) of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013). Although in specific cases, other economic operators can also have an obligation to lodge their part of the ENS (e.g. if they don’t want to share that information with the carrier), which is then called multiple filing (Art 127 (6) of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013).  

How can you prepare?

All stakeholders (shippers, third-party logistics companies and importers) need to evaluate their processes and at a minimum reach out to the carriers used, to ensure that their carriers are preparing to change their IT systems to submit the necessary information in ICS2. In the event the carrier requires more information than currently provided, the freight forwarder needs to evaluate, together with his customer, if this information can be provided to the carrier or if it will be submitted separately in ICS2.  

Note: In case the required information is not provided to the customs authorities, the goods will be stopped at the EU customs border and will not be processed for customs clearance. This can lead to delays in the supply chain or other sanctions of non-compliance with the applicable regulations.  

Should you have any questions regarding this change in regulation, please contact me directly. Additionally, here are the links to the ICS2 regulation and the Union Customs code - Regulation (EU) No 952/2013