Customs Engineering & Law

ICS 2 : The New European customs “Import Control System” just arriving

Date : 15 March 2021

Bertrand Rager

The purpose of this note is to introduce the new European Import Control System (ICS2) in the safety and security measures framework and the launching of its first “release 1” version for express courier and postal shipments transported by air on 15th March, 2021.

In France, only two operators will be involved in this release 1 scheme:

  • the national postal operator and
  • one express courier company with its hub in France.


1 – General context and objectives of ICS2

The ICS 1 system was implemented as part of the safety and security measures instituted after the Sept.11  terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, to ensure the risk analysis of goods upstream of their arrival in the customs territory of the Union, or even before long-distance containers are loaded, whatever the mean of transportation (air, sea, rail and road) on the basis of an entry summary declaration electronic (ENS). The ICS1 system has been in force since 1st January 2011(*).

The European ICS2 system is now  intended to replace the current ICS1 system, in view of security requirements and of the provisions of the Union Customs Code in force since 1st May 2016.


1.1 The main objectives of ICS2 are to enable European Union (EU) customs authorities to :

– better identify high-risk consignments and intervene at the most appropriate point in the chain of supply,

– strengthen the protection of EU citizens and of the internal market against the threats ar regards safety and security,

– facilitate the cross-border passage of most legitimate trade,

– simplifying the exchange of information between economic operators and customs authorities in the EU.


1.2 The main changes are as follows :

– the submission of a Minimum Data Set (MDS) (**) prior to the loading of consignments on an aircraft for aviation security purposes – implementation of “do not load”;

– removal of exemptions (postal and express consignments of negligible value) with the exception of consignments of Correspondence (***);

– additional data (buyer/seller) only for maritime and river, road and rail transportation ;

– the implementation of “multiple filing” for maritime and air transportation;

– the setting up of a consultation (“referral data”) on the data of the summary declarations (ENS) after allocation of the Movement Reference Number (MRN) ;

– the possibility to invalidate the entry summary declaration (ENS) ;

– Better identification for the treatment of Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs) (implementation of mutual recognition, notification of controls before the arrival of goods on the customs territory of the Union.


1.3 The filing of the ENS in the ICS2 framework:

The obligation for filing the ENS, in a general way, is the responsibility of the carrier, as is the operation of ICS1. The latter is responsible for the transport of goods into the customs territory of the Union. The ENS may be filed  by the importer or by the consignee of the goods or by any person capable of presenting the goods to the customs services. In practice, the vast majority of ENS will be deposited by the carrier and other persons involved in the supply chain.

The ENS can be filed:

– either in the form of a complete ENS by the carrier,

– or in the form of several pieces of ENS “multiple filing” filed by the other players involved in the maritime or air logistics chain. The aggregation of these messages will be carried out by the European customs system by means of transport documents (air waybill, sea bill of lading). Each actor being responsible for the message he/she sends.

Depending on the type of flow (express consignments, postal consignments, air freight, sea freight) and transport (road, rail), ENS data sets (partial or complete) have been defined in accordance with Annex B to the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/234 of 7 December 2020 amending the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446.

The deadlines for the submission of ENS declarations vary according to the modes of transport and the duration of the transport according to the ICS1 rules renewed in the UCC.


1.4 New provisions in the context of air transport :

In the case of air transport, two ENS risk analysis will be carried out by the customs authorities :

– the first one before the loading of the goods onboard an aircraft for aviation security purposes, in support of a PLACI ENS (minimum data set “7+1”), “bomb search” according to civil aviation rules.

 This ENS must be filed, as soon as possible, prior to the loading of the goods into the aircraft. This covers all goods, i.e. express shipments, express consignments, goods in transit and goods in transit, postal consignments and conventional cargo freight;

– the second before the arrival of the goods in the customs territory of the Union in support of a ENS (partial or complete) for safety and security purposes.


2 – Principle: a central European system (“central base”)

Due to the strategic importance and scope of this European ICS2 project, its design has been taken over by the European Commission (DG TAXUD), in collaboration with the Member States (creation of a central database (CR) (****) and a shared operator interface (STI) (*****), and has led to the creation of the presentation of a project divided into three versions (release 1, 2 and 3) described under point III below.

Economic operators will access the central European system via a single entry portal (ITS). The access modalities and certification are defined by the European Commission (DG TAXUD). Communications between States and economic operators will be made through the said European system.

This European system will receive all the ENS filed by economic operators and will transmit them to the EU entry point Member State and to the Member States involved in the supply chain for risk analysis for safety and security purposes. These results will be communicated to the EU entry point Member State responsible for the final decision.

The main functionalities of the central database (CR) :

– processing of ENS (partial or complete with new data sets provided for in Annex B to the Commission delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/234 of 7 December 2020 amending the delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 ;

– the harmonised admissibility ;

– reconciliation of partial messages with a link key;

– storage ;

– notification of arrival of the means of transport;

– the life cycle of the ENS, followed by the customs presentation of the goods ;

– notification of controls for “safety/security” AEOs;

– requirements for customs control.


3 – Timetable for the deployment of the European ICS2 system

The European ICS2 system will be operational in three versions in accordance with the EU Customs Code work programme (see Commission (EU) Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/ 2151). Each version concerns different economic operators and modes of transport (air, maritime, road and rail). Economic operators will start filing entry summary declarations under ICS2 depending on the type of services they provide.

ICS1 will operate in parallel with ICS2 until the deployment of version 2 (airborne vector – 01 March 2023) and of version 3 (road, sea and rail vector – 01 March 2024). After the deployment of version 3, ICS1 will be phased out after a transition period of 200 days.

The first version “release 1” covers express and postal shipments with the exception of shipments via correspondence before loading the aircraft for aviation security purposes (ENS PLACI).

In France, two economic operators are concerned by “release 1”: the national postal operator and an express delivery company with its logistics hub in France.

A practical guide has been drawn up by the Commission and the Member States on the modalities of exchanges as regards aviation security – “referrals” between economic operators and customs authorities.

It is available on :

The economic actors concerned by the different versions analyse as follows:

Version 1: express carriers and postal operators based in the customs territory of the Union who ship goods to the EU by air will have to file the ENS PLACI before the loading of the aircraft, for aviation security purposes.

Version 2: Postal operators, express delivery companies, air carriers and freight forwarders who ship  goods to the EU by air will have to file the ENS PLACI before the loading of the aircraft, and then provide all ENS data prior to the aircraft’s arrival at the EU port of entry to safety and security purposes.

Version 3: Operators transporting goods (including postal and express consignments) by means of the maritime, river, road and rail transport companies will have to file the ENS before the arrival of the goods at the point of entry into the EU Customs territory and, for long-distance containerised goods, before the ship is loaded,  for safety and security purposes.


4 – Integration of ICS2 in the EU goods entry process

The entry of goods into the EU is a 5-step customs process that constitutes pre-clearance:

1 – the submission of the ENS;

2 – notification of arrival of the means of transport;

3 – the notification of presentation of the goods, in response to this notification, which authorises the goods to be unloaded in a place approved of by customs;

4 – the temporary storage of the goods;

5 – the placing of the goods under a customs procedure.

The ICS2 process covers three stages out of the five listed above: the lodging of the ENS, the notification of arrival of the means of transport and the presentation of the goods to customs. This last stage allows the notification of the ENS to the central base and, if necessary, the safety and security checks to be carried out.

As a reminder: in France, ICS1 already covers these three stages (via the Automate de Sûreté (AS) tele-services and DELTA P ) and complies with the provisions of the UCC.


(*) ICS Circular 7052 of 15 February 2015 (Administrative Decision 15-010), published under the Community Customs Code that is still in force, until the deployment of the ICS2 programme.

(**) Preloading Advance Cargo Information

(***) Letters, postcards, ecograms and printed matter not subject to import or export duties (Article 1(26)) of the delegated regulation (EU) 2015/2446)

(****) Central repository (CR)

(*****) Shared Trade Interface – STI