Exclusive: BRU Airport, Customs, and Cargo Community collaborate

On 30MAY24, Air Cargo Belgium, Brussels Airport Company, and Belgian Customs signed a Vision Document to enable swifter declaration and inspection processes and enhance the competitive position of Brussels Airport.

According to ACB’s Director, Freek De Witte, over the years the relationship between the private operators and the Customs Administration has evolved from rather rigid to more openness. The Vision Document should further pave the way forward.
“In order to make this Vision Document work, you need a partnership based on a mutual knowledge of each other’s processes, interests and goals. It must be supported by personal contacts between the people behind the processes, and mutual trust and respect,” he said. Mr. De Witte also said that, thanks to this partnership, ACB and Customs have learned to ‘speak each other’s language’, which has improved the knowledge of each other’s motives, legal framework, and economic reality. “Apart from this shared vision, a shared sense of urgency and timing are equally important.”

(left to right):Freek De Witte, Kristian Vanderwaeren and Arnaud Feist – courtesy ACB

European Customs digitization project
The crux of the matter is in digitization, in which ACB is collaborating closely with Brussels Airport. “As Customs plays an important role in the BRUcargo processes, making them swifter can boost our competitiveness as an airport.”
Digitization is also a prerequisite for the roll-out of the Multi-Annual Plan for Electronic Customs (MASP-C), initiated by the European Commission, aiming to replace paper-format declarations by digitized ones by 2025.
Many companies across the bloc of 27 are struggling with the implementation, and ACB hopes the Vision Document will help the Brussels Cargo community to shift to a higher gear in this respect. Regular concertation between ACB and Customs, both on a regional and national level, will enable the private operators to be informed pro-actively on new developments.

Combatting drugs trafficking
According to Kristian Vanderwaeren, Administrator-General of the Belgian Customs Administration, we are living in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). “Free trade is not a given anymore. One can feel the tension everywhere. You can expect more and more controls as the Customs Administration is seen as an instrument of policy making. This will eventually lead to more sanctioning.”
Mr Vanderwaeren referred to the tsunami created by e-commerce, where more regulation is to be expected. A major problem for Belgian Customs is drugs trafficking, especially in the Port of Antwerp. “As we are trying to tighten the grip there, other gateways such as Brussels Airport may soon be seen as an alternative by the criminals.”
For the Customs Administration, the main focus in combatting this plague has traditionally been on passenger controls. “In air freight, we are considering risk analysis based on the declarations, in close collaboration with the police. In post/express/courier services, we have to collaborate with the respective companies, taking quality and quantity of the consignments into account. Step by step, we want to introduce scanning of high-risk goods and packages.”

Part of Brussels Airport’s innovation strategy
Brussels Airport shares the vision outlined in the document, said Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. “We have committed ourselves to the renovation of the two facilities currently used by Customs, so as to improve the working environment,” he said. “The further innovation and optimization of BRUCloud fits into this ambition and will support the improvement of customs and inspection processes.” Mr. Feist expressed the hope that Brussels Airport would also be equipped with scanning infrastructure. “Working in synergy with ACB in this respect, is of crucial importance,” he concluded.



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