The Port of Rotterdam Authority, Customs, Fresh Produce Centre and Portbase have joined forces to ensure that customs clearance is faster, more efficient and safer.
o remind, reefer containers account for over 15% of the total number of containers shipped via the Port of Rotterdam. This proportion is expected to increase further in the coming years. As explained, the initial results of the partnership are promising.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority works continuously with supply chain partners to examine opportunities to further optimise port and chain process efficiency and safety. A pilot started recently to make customs’ processes safer and more efficient. ‘This is a rather complex process that involves more than you would at first expect’, began Hanna Stelzel, Business Manager Logistics and Supply Chain at the Port of Rotterdam.
Popularly known as customs clearance, in practice this involves more than the activities carried out by Customs. It is the combined action of customs, ship agents, terminals, shipping lines and other involved chain partners. With lots of communication back and forth.
‘Communications between all involved parties largely determines the efficiency of the entire clearance process’, added Anne Saris, Business Manager Agrofood and Distribution from the Port of Rotterdam Authority. ‘Cooperation is crucial. The faster and more efficient the communications, the more efficient the customs clearance.’
The increase in the number of reefers was a key reason to examine processes together with chain partners. As container numbers in the port increase, the number of inspections increases, too. These inspections are carried out based on risk analyses and profiles, with country of origin and history (or lack of this) helping to determine whether a container should or should not be inspected.
Reefers often originate from high-risk areas, which means they are also more frequently selected for inspection. As further growth is expected, it is crucial that the port makes optimum preparations to facilitate this increased flow of reefers. Efficient customs processes are an essential link in the chain. ‘Moreover, these help attract additional flows’, added Stelzel.
Customs inspects the containers in three ways, the most common being via scanning. All large container terminals on Maasvlakte in Rotterdam have a high-tech customs scanner on site and images of the container contents are analysed by customs remotely, 24/7.
This means there’s no need for containers to leave the terminal, or be opened unnecessarily and, in 95% of cases, they can be released again within 36 hours of unloading. A second method is the physical inspection, that is carried out on the State Inspection Terminal (SIT) on Maasvlakte.
The third option involves using sniffer dogs to check the relevant containers at the terminals. ‘It also happens that further controls are needed after viewing the scanned images. That’s the physical inspection at the SIT’, added Loekie Lepelaar, Customs Affairs Advisor and Client Manager at Customs, Port of Rotterdam.
The initial results are promising. We can keep delays to a minimum, not only for reefers but also for other containers. This ensures that cargo owners don’t face unnecessary costs. Other chain partners have now also expressed interest and we’re expecting to take rapid steps there, too. Ultimately, the aim is to work together to improve efficiency in the port.