From 1 July 2023 Qstep, a Tallinn-based software tech company, has successfully implemented EU´s new Import Control System 2 (ICS2) regulation for air cargo ground handling operations at Finland´s Helsinki-Vantaa airport (HEL), country´s main air cargo hub where the Estonian firm provides support to two out of three cargo handling agents including ASR Cargo Center and Swissport Finland
To better protect EU´s consumers and general cargo safety, the new EU customs advance cargo information system known as ICS2 is now mandatory for all types of shipments delivered by air to the EU Member States from the outside.
The ICS2 consists of several stages of shipment´s risk assessment including initial or advance risk assessment known as PLACI or Preloading Advance Cargo Information submitted by overseas freight forwarder as well new data elements in the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) submitted by airline to the customs authority and Presentation Notification (PN) submitted by cargo ground handlers upon goods arrival at EU´s airport.
“ICS2 is a really complex information system. It affects and involves all modes of transport, air cargo supply chain members now included, from freight forwarders to airlines and cargo ground handlers,” explains Haiti Arendi, the CEO of Qstep.
“Since Qstep air cargo handling software platform provides everything in one window, it was our task to make sure that our cargo handling clients at HEL are also compliant with ICS2 regulation and that processes were integrated as usually to normal workflow.
“In practice it means that from July 1, sending Presentation Notification (PN) to Finnish Customs authorities on goods arrival into cargo handler´s facility has become mandatory.”
“This may sound like a small technical detail but in reality this is a complex process.
“In order to lodge PN to National customs you need to know how data has been declared in the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) by the airline.”
“Getting information from carriers for ICS2 procedures was challenging and even with very short notice Qstep was able to cope with the challenges with minimal damage to our customers”, adds Samuli Naskali, managing director of ASR Cargo Center.
“Even when airlines were using different software, Qstep was able to adapt and configure different parameters for NCTS, PN messages in less than a day. I must say ICS2 adaptation was a lot easier than expected thanks to Qstep´s flexibility.”
Swissport Finland, another cargo handling agent at HEL, has been long using Qstep customs communication solutions, with ICS2 regulations also affecting its daily operations at Finland´s major airport.
”Working with Qstep during ICS2 implementation has been on an excellent level”, adds Päivi Hokkanen, head of cargo operations at Swissport Finland.
“Their team has been very supportive and we have been able to find quick solutions thanks to their expertise on ICS2-regulations.”
“But another deadline is already looming around the corner when submitting ENS on a parcel shipment level will become mandatory from October 2, 2023,” says Haiti Arendi.
“No doubt that the biggest challenge will come from e-commerce as all such B2C shipments must be declared on a parcel level, with hundreds or thousands of parcels shipped under one air waybill.”
“Basically, the inability to handle data on a parcel level can result in a stoppage of e-commerce delivery to the end consumer. As a next step, we plan to offer parcel-level data handling capability to all members of the air cargo supply chain, including freight forwarders and airlines, so they can all comply with ICS2 in a timely and efficient manner. But this will probably be another service and another news story,” he concludes.