European Union Import Control System - ICS

What is the Import Control System (ICS)? | How to submit the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)? | How to obtain a MRN (Movement Reference Number)? | How to perform the means of transport notification of arrival? | What are the obligations of the customs administration and the operators? | What are the exemptions?

What is the Import Control System (ICS)?

The Import Control System
Within the framework of the safety standards « SAFE » developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the European Union has implemented a new « Import Control System » (ICS), which aims to ensure the flows of merchandise at the moment when they enter into the customs of the European Union territory. This control system which is registered in the eCUSTOMS program has been enforced since January 1, 2011. Starting this date, it has become mandatory that the operators must send an « Entry Summary Declaration ENS» to the first entry customs office of the EU before the merchandise can be introduced into the customs territory of the European Union.

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How to submit the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)?

Filing the ENS
The ENS is done electronically. Each state member of the European Union has its own computer system to receive the ENS information. In general, the ENS is prepared by the carrier, but it can also be done by:

  • The person who represents the carrier;
  • The importer himself or his agent;
  • Any person who is responsible for presenting the merchandise at customs (for example, the agent, the intermediary person, etc.)
The contents
The contents of the ENS may vary depending on the type of transport means, type of flow, person’s status. The mandatory, facultative and conditional data list of the ENS contains many types of information, notably the nomenclature code of the merchandise - SH (4 and 6 first digits) and the information given in reference to the transport means. The requirements related to the entry and exit summary declarations are precisely defined in the Annex 30 bis of the provisions implementing the Community Customs Code.
Time limits
The time limit to file the entry summary declaration is based in the function of the transport means and the routing time of the transport.

For sea transport:
  • Containers Cargo: 24 hours before the loading at the port of departure;
  • Bulk Cargo: 4 hours prior to its arrival into the European Union;
  • Short distance sea transport or routing time of less than 24 hours (between a territory located outside the European Union): 2 hours prior to the arrival at the first EU port.

For air transport:
  • Short haul flights: At the latest, at the moment of the actual take off of the aircraft;
  • Long haul flights: At least 4 hours prior to the arrival of the aircraft into the European Union.

For rail and inland navigation transport:
  • At the latest, 2 hours prior to the arrival at the customs office of the port of entry into the European Union.

For road haulage:
  • One hour prior to the arrival at the customs office of entry into the European Union.

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How to obtain an MRN (Movement Reference Number)?

The MRN
After the registration and validation of the ENS has been completed, a unique number is assigned to the operator. It contains 18 alphanumeric characters (year, country code, etc.). This number allows correlating the information registered and sent through the ENS with the information specified in the arrival notification at the time of presenting the merchandises.

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How to perform the means of transport notification of arrival?

The means of transport notification of arrival
A notification of arrival is applied to all vessels or aircrafts entering into the customs territory of the Community. The operator of the active transport vessel entering into the customs territory of the community, or his agent, must notify the arrival of the transport vessel to the customs authorities at the first port of entry. This notification must contain the required elements which were submitted in the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) in order to identify all the merchandises and goods transported by this vessel.

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What are the obligations of the customs administration and the operators?

Obligations and responsibilities of the Customs Administration
The Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) transfers the responsibility to the Customs Administrations of the States members:
  • The Customs office performs a risk import analysis for safety and security. The customs administration can also decide to perform an inspection control of the merchandises, either at the first port of entry into the European Union or at the State member of its final destination. Three types of risks can be determined:
  • - Risk type A: Serious threat, it cannot be loaded (message «Do Not Load» DNL);
    - Risk type B: Immediate action at the first entry customs office or at the departing port;
    - Risk type C: Risks that are not considered too serious. Action takes place at the unloading port in the EU.
  • •Communication with the other State members regarding the information of identified eventual risks.
The obligations and responsibilities of the Operators
The ENS also involves the responsibility of the operators who must:
  • Determine the State member where the declaration ENS will be sent;
  • Anticipate the expansion of all the borders and countries involved.

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What are the exemptions?

The exemptions
Certain merchandises do not concern the ICS:
  • Merchandises that are just going through transit, without interruption, on territorial waters or air space of the customs territory;
  • Merchandises which are insured by duly authorized regular shipping lines;
  • Some categories of merchandises such as electricity, mailing parcels, merchandise brought by travelers in their luggage…

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For more information, you can consult the European customs information website which features: The import scenario and procedures into Europe from a third party (country) in the framework of the new import control system (ICS).

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