Photo by Maxim on Unsplash

The EU’s new ICS2 import control system: how can businesses prepare?

Since 2021, the European Union has been gradually implementing a new safety and security program for imported goods, based on the IT system for transmitting information about shipments, known as the Import Control System 2 (ICS2). The next stage of this program will commence on June 3, 2024.

You can read this article in 6 minutes


In sea transport, 60% of Entry Summary Declarations contain incomplete data, which hampers proper safety and security risk analysis. This issue persists in road and rail transport as well.

In response, the Union initiated the implementation of the ICS2 system, which intensifies trade scrutiny with countries outside the European Union and enhances risk management customs in the common EU system (CRMF), contributing to the Union’s integrated approach to trade in goods.

It is worth noting that from 2023, the system has been applicable to carriers and forwarders involved in air freight. On June 3, 2024, the transitional period for maritime transport and inland navigation will commence, lasting until December 4 of this year. From this date, the implementation of the ICS2 system for shipowners and carriers in maritime and inland navigation will begin. In 2025, the system will extend to the road and rail transport sectors.

ICS2 System: obligations of carriers and forwarders

A carrier or forwarder transporting goods into the customs territory of the EU must submit an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) before the goods arrive at the external border of the European Union.

If the entrepreneur lacks the required data, it must be provided by the entity that possesses it. The declaration may be submitted by the carrier, forwarder, importer, cargo consignee, or an authorised entity.

Required information in the ENS declaration includes:

  • A detailed description of the shipment (e.g., its contents, materials, intended use)
  • Precise details of the parties involved in the transport (seller, buyer, transport organiser, transporter)
  • A 6-digit HS code, allowing for the classification of goods
  • An EORI number (if assigned), issued by customs

Obligations of carriers

Businesses issuing a master bill of lading (MBL) must obtain the necessary data from freight forwarders, including express or postal operators issuing equivalent transport documents. If the freight forwarder does not provide the required data, the carrier must submit a partial ENS declaration based on the master bill of lading and include the forwarder’s EORI number in their declaration.

The forwarder will then be responsible for submitting data at the subordinate level to the ICS2 system and obtaining data from other parties issuing house bills of lading (HBL) or declare in their partial ENS declaration the details of participants in the operation that have yet to submit their declarations.

It is recalled that the main bill of lading is issued by the primary carrier (e.g., a shipping line), while the secondary bill of lading is issued by the forwarder or logistics agent acting as an intermediary between the sender and the primary carrier.

Carriers issuing a straight bill of lading must obtain additional commercial data from a recipient based in the European Union. If the recipient does not provide the required data, their EORI number must be declared in their ENS partial declaration, and they will be required to submit their partial declaration to ICS2.

Obligations of forwarders and postal operators

Shipping companies and express or postal operators issuing a sub-waybill or equivalent document must provide the carrier (or primary operator responsible for the carriage) with the necessary data or submit a partial ENS declaration themselves to ICS2, including specific commercial data to be obtained from the consignee based in a Member State of the European Union.

The ICS2 rules apply to goods transported to or through:

  • The European Union
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

The rules apply to all goods, regardless of value (except documents).

Obligations of cargo consignees

Recipients of goods may also be required to submit an ENS declaration containing information about the buyer and seller of the goods, depending on the contractual arrangements between the parties.

Consequences of failure to comply with ICS2 requirements

Failure to comply with the system requirements by carriers and other economic entities may lead to severe consequences. The sanctions provided by the European Union for failure to meet ICS2 requirements include:

  • Goods may be detained and delayed at European Union customs borders until all safety and security requirements are met.
  • The goods may not be released for free circulation by customs authorities, meaning they will not be able to enter the EU market.
  • Incomplete returns may be rejected, leading to the need to re-submit documents.
  • Customs authorities may carry out additional inspections and impose sanctions for non-compliance. These may include financial penalties (amount not yet known) and other administrative measures aimed at enforcing compliance with the regulations.

How can one prepare for ICS2?

Firstly, decide how to submit declarations to the system—either independently at the main level or jointly with clients who can submit partial information to ICS2 on their own responsibility, in accordance with the conditions and deadlines specified in the new regulations.

If you do not have an Economic Operator Identification Number (EORI), you must obtain one from one of the national customs administrations of the European Union Member States. More information about what an EORI is and how to get it can be found on the website of the European Commission.

Your company’s IT systems then need to be updated to connect directly to the European ICS2. Additional information on technical preparations can be found in the European Commission guide, available in many languages.

More detailed information about the ICS2 system and technical issues can be found on the European Commission website.

Photo by Maxim on Unsplash