EU ships to face lighter customs checks, Commission announces
Plans to cuts customs formalities for ships staying within the EU have been unveiled by the European Commission.
In a statement on 8 July 2013, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas announced the creation of the so-called "Blue Belt", including lighter customs procedures for ships ships carrying mainly EU goods between EU ports.
Mr Kallas said current procedures were hindering the development of the single market.
"We need to put shipping on same footing as other forms of transport. The days when lorries and trains were stopped travelling within the single market are long gone, and it should be the same for shipping."
He questioned why a ship travelling between Antwerp and Rotterdam was subject to the same customs procedures - which can take hours and sometimes days to carry out - as a ship coming from China.
The Commissioner also announced proposals to to put in place a system to distinguish between EU and non-EU goods on board a ship, by creating a single EU-wide electronic cargo declaration.
It is estimated that 75% of European external trade by volume and 37% of EU internal trade is carried by shipping.