The Belgian customs authorities inaugurated their e-commerce digital platform BE-GATE officially at Air Cargo Europe on 6 June. Also present were the airports of Brussels and Liege as well as the seaports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.
The need to develop a parallel platform to the regular clearance system was prompted by the very different nature of e-commerce consignments said Werner Rens, Head of Marketing Department Belgium
Customs & Excise. “You are confronted with up to over 100,000 pieces in a single aircraft. A flood of this size is very likely to disrupt your regular clearance system, so we had to separate
BE-GATE’s baseline is in submitting a large amount of arrival notifications through one single transaction with a customs-approved data file. The same data set is used for all consignments on import: low, middle and high value. Data transfer is secured by SOAP (simple object access protocol) interface.
BE-GATE also provides risk analysis and a simplified declaration, with an additional declaration for consignments over 22 euros. All packages that have not been selected for inspection are released immediately. BE-GATE has been designed for both import and export flows.
As the customs value is difficult to establish, BE-GATE proposes an alternative value based on ‘reasonable means.’ This value will be used to establish both customs duties and VAT.
Part of BRU strategy
For Brussels Airport the implementation of the new platform is the next logical step, said Director Cargo & Logistics Steven Polmans. “Apart from focussing on pharmaceuticals and perishables, we also want to be part of the fast-growing e-commerce game. Earlier this year, we set up a strategic study with the University of Antwerp to help us define the developments in e-commerce and how we as an airport and a community could play a very active role in developing this segment.”
According to Mr Polmans, BRU can bring several strengths into the game. “We have an extensive network of both cargo and passenger operations. As a logistics platform we are home to 100 players in this field and, finally, there is our BRUcloud portal. With this data sharing platform, we are facilitating the cargo process, and BE- GATE just fits perfectly in that philosophy.”
Express meets general cargo at LGG
Steven Verhasselt, Vice-President Commercial Liege Airport said that LGG is a freighter airport “and e-commerce is after all a freight product, of express meeting general cargo. For over 16 years we have been the European hub for TNT, now taken over by FedEx.” E-commerce needs speed and the bottleneck in this respect is on the ground, Mr Verhasselt added. “And the most important player on the ground is customs.”
The participation of the seaports in this platform has to do with the fact that not every e-commerce consignment is time-driven, said Luc Arnouts, Director International Network, Port of Antwerp. With the introduction of this customs tools the two airports and the two seaports want to highlight the strong position of Belgium as a logistics hotspot.
Building an integrated EU platform
The question remains if every customs administration must build its own system.
CFG: Mr Rens, has your administration been involved in any form of concertation with the authorities of the other EU member states?
WR: “Before developing BE-GATE we have done some benchmarking in the Netherlands, France and Germany. I admit that, in Europe, we are missing one integrated IT customs system, which we should have had years ago. We are still waiting for it to come, but e-commerce is there, and we have to deal with it.”
In building this pan-EU platform the Belgians are playing a pioneering role, Mr Rens said. “Belgium is chairing a working group on import procedures in the EU.
After its release on 6 June BE-GATE will focus on import. To enable the companies to use the system, they will have to apply for a license. Last March, DHL Aviation already communicated on being the first company at Brussels Airport to have been granted one (see CFG, 24 March).
Marcel Schoeters in Munich