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Blue belt: a single transport area for EU shipping

Blue belt: a single transport area for EU shipping

Easier customs formalities for goods shipped within the EU and EU goods transiting non-EU ports aim to give the shipping sector a boost.


Communication from the Commission: Blue belt, a single transport area for shipping (COM(2013) 510 final of 8.7.2013 - not published in the Official Journal).


Ships carry 75 % of the European Union’s (EU’s) external trade and 37 % of its internal trade. Compared to other modes of transport, shipping has lower costs and less environmental impact. However, EU shipping has faced a handicap: ships leaving a Member State’s territorial waters (12 miles from shore) are considered to have left the EU and thus the EU customs territory. This means that goods have to go through customs formalities both departing from and arriving at EU ports, leading to costs and delays.


Under the so-called blue belt package, which aims to reduce costs and make trading easier by simplifying customs formalities for goods transported by ship, the situation is changing. Bearing in mind the need to protect consumers and businesses from illegal products entering the EU, the package covers the shipping of goods both between EU ports and on vessels that visit non-EU ports on their way between EU ports (e.g. a ship from Cyprus going to Calais might drop off and pick up cargo at non-EU ports, such as Tunis).

Shipping of EU goods between EU ports

The simplified regular shipping service scheme, which already applies to ships carrying EU goods calling on a regular basis only at EU ports, came into force on 1 March 2014. It allows goods to retain EU status even when leaving EU territorial waters on their journey between Member States' ports. This status is on request, and restricted to ships operating solely between EU Member State ports. The application procedure has been reduced from 45 to 15 days and the procedure to add new ports to the service has been made more flexible.

Shipping of EU and non-EU goods between EU ports, and those passing through non-EU ports

Because most containerised traffic has mixed cargo, a standardised eManifest - an electronic cargo declaration - is to be introduced to distinguish between EU and international (i.e. non-EU) goods. This should result in more efficient checks: EU goods would be swiftly discharged, while non-EU goods would be subject to customs procedures.

The blue belt proposals complement the EU’s ports policy review adopted in May 2013, which seeks to boost sea ports’ competitiveness and unleash their growth potential.


Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1099/2013 of 5 November 2013 amending Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 establishing the Community customs code (enhancement of regular shipping services) (Official Journal L 294 of 6.11.2013).

Last updated: 13.05.2014