Air cargo players were told to gear up for new rules governing inbound air shipments to the European Union (EU).


The European Commission (EC) made the call as requirements to submit advanced shipment information before air freight is loaded are set to be imposed on carriers starting March 2023.


"By collecting data about all goods entering the EU prior to their loading and arrival, ICS2 (Import Control System 2) supports effective risk-based customs controls while facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade across the EU's external borders," the commission said.


Submission of advanced cargo information


It added that the new requirement means that all freight forwarders, air carriers, express couriers, and postal operators transporting goods to or through the EU ⁠— including Norway and Switzerland ⁠— will be required to submit advance cargo information in the form of a complete entry summary declaration (ENS) as part of the second phase of the new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme – ICS2 Release 2.


The European Commission urged air cargo players to prepare in advance for Release 2, in order to avoid the risk of delays and non-compliance once the requirements are in place.


"Postal operators and express couriers, who have previously been declaring partial information regarding inbound shipments (under ICS2 Phase 1), will now also be required to coordinate with their air carrier to submit all required data," the European Commission said.


This means that freight forwarders, express couriers, and postal operators will now be the ones responsible for providing the data.


"ICS2 will simplify the movement of goods between customs offices at the first point of entry and final destination in the EU. For economic operators, ICS2 will streamline requests for additional information and pre-departure risk screening by customs authorities," the EC added.


The information previously needed to be submitted four hours before arrival, will now need to be input before the shipments are loaded onto an aircraft.


Those companies can either submit the data themselves or share it with the airlines that will then complete the ENS filing requirement.


Conformance testing from July 2022


A conformance testing environment will be made available by the European Commission from July 2022 to February 2023 in order to verify the economic operator's capacity to access and communicate with customs authorities through the intended ICS2 trader interface. The EC noted that this will aid in the preparation for the release of ICS2 Release 2.


The EU Import Control System 2 (ICS2), a large-scale initiative to enhance customs oversight of the movement of goods released new requirements for inbound air shipments to the EU.


"From 1 March 2023, economic operators involved in handling, sending, shipping, and transporting cargo, express or postal consignments to or via the EU by air have to comply with new advance data reporting requirements for pre-loading and pre-arrival customs risk assessments," the commission said.


"Economic operators are strongly advised to prepare in advance for Release 2, in order to avoid the risk of delays and non-compliance," it added.


The EC noted that the ICS2 enables customs authorities to identify high-risk consignments that necessitate early intervention, while facilitating legitimate trade into the customs territory of the EU, Norway, and Switzerland.


The system is being implemented in three releases. Having successfully completed Release 1 covering the pre-loading process for postal and express consignments by air on March 15, 2021, Release 2 is the next step in the system’s implementation, and it will go live on March 1, 2023.


Release 3 will be implemented from March 1, 2024, requiring operators carrying goods on maritime and inland waterways, roads, and railways to comply with the new regulations.