What is ICS2 (EU Import Control System 2)?

What is ICS2 (EU Import Control System 2)?

Border security is a major priority for the European Union (EU), which is facing increased risks such as terrorism and illegal trafficking. To effectively manage the flow of goods, the EU has introduced the Import Control System 2 (ICS2). This advanced system enables proactive risk analysis and secure management of imports even before they arrive at the EU's borders, ensuring better protection while facilitating legitimate trade. ICS2 works in tandem with the Export Control System (ECS), which applies similar principles to exports, ensuring consistency and security throughout the supply chain.

In addition, the transition of European ports to ICS2 marks a significant evolution of current control systems (CCS) towards a single, standardized format. This unification is designed to improve the efficiency of customs procedures and enhance the EU's ability to detect and prevent potential threats before they reach European territory.

Definition and history of ICS2

Origins of the ICS system after the attacks of September 11, 2001

The Import Control System (ICS), a direct response to the September 11 attacks, was designed to strengthen the security of the European Union's borders. Initially implemented in 2011, the ICS aimed to prevent the entry of dangerous or illegal goods by requiring an entry summary declaration before goods arrived or were loaded for transport. The system marked a milestone in the EU's approach to customs security and risk management.

Transition from ICS1 to ICS2 for better EU-wide risk management

The transition from ICS1 toICS2 reflects a move towards more integrated, technologically advanced risk management across the Union. ICS2, with its phased launch from March 2021, introduces enhancedrisk analysis and data processing capabilities prior to the arrival of goods. This more robust system enables faster and more accurate identification of potential threats, offering better protection against security risks while optimizing the customs clearance process. ICS2 is an essential pillar for a secure EU, open to legitimate international trade.

ICS2 features and implementation

Description of pre-arrival safety and security program

ICS2's pre-arrival security and safety program plays a crucial role in strengthening the European Union's border management. This strategic initiative is based on the early collection and analysis of information on all cargo entering the EU. Even before goods cross borders, they must be declared via a full entry summary declaration, enabling customs authorities to carry out preliminary risk assessments.

This preventive approach aims to proactively identify and intercept high-risk shipments. The aim is to ensure effective intervention at the most opportune moment, minimizing delays while maximizing security. By enabling this upstream analysis, ICS2 not only facilitates protection against potential threats, but also contributes to the smooth flow of legitimate commercial traffic, by ensuring that only goods posing a real risk are subject to in-depth inspections.

ICS2 deployment phases: key dates and impacts

ICS2 is being rolled out in several phases, each aimed at gradually integrating all modes of transport and types of economic operator. The first phase was launched on March 15, 2021, targeting mainly express freight operators and postal services for air shipments. This initial phase established the framework for aviation security risk management. The second phase, starting on March 1, 2023, extended the application to other forms of transport and introduced more comprehensive requirements for pre-arrival declarations. The third phase is scheduled for June 1, 2024, and will address maritime transport, crucial to international trade. Each phase of this strategic deployment is designed to enhance customs security while minimizing the impact on trade flows.

Major changes introduced by ICS2 compared with ICS1, including enhanced reporting requirements

ICS2 represents a significant evolution fromICS1 in terms of technology, coverage and security procedures. Among the major changes, ICS2 imposes increased requirements for Entry Summary Declarations (ENS), requesting more detailed and varied information from economic operators. These changes include theobligation for all carriers to provide additional data for aviation security even before consignments are loaded, with specific procedures in the event of identified risks, such as a Do Not Load (DNL) order. In addition, ICS2 extends its application to previously exempted goods, such as those of low value (up to €22), and enables multiple data entry for both sea and air transport modes. These advances facilitate finer-grained risk analysis and faster response in the event of a threat, while optimizing cooperation between member states for efficient cross-border goods management.

ICS2 system benefits

Improved protection for the EU's internal market and consumers

ICS2 plays a crucial role in protecting the European Union's internal market, significantly increasing consumer safety. By implementing reinforced and preventive controls, this system helps to identify and intercept non-compliant or dangerous goods before they reach consumers. This substantial improvement in risk prevention not only helps to protect EU citizens from potentially harmful products, but also to maintain confidence in the European single market, which is essential to the economic and social well-being of its members.

Facilitating legitimate trade across the EU's external borders

ICS2 also promotes the smooth flow of legitimate trade. Thanks to more effective risk management and pre-identification of at-risk shipments, the system reduces border processing times for compliant goods. This acceleration of customs procedures is crucial for companies that depend on fast logistics and transport. By simplifying and securing customs processes, ICS2 supports economic activity by ensuring faster, safer movement of goods across the Union.

Early identification of threats and targeted intervention by customs authorities

ICS2 optimizes theearly identification of threats to the security and safety of EU borders. Using advanced data collection and analysis technologies, the system enables customs authorities to proactively detect potential risks associated with shipments before they arrive. This ability to anticipate ensures targeted and effective interventions, enabling resources to be focused on real threats rather than generalized controls, thereby increasing the efficiency of customs processes and improving overall security.

Enhanced cooperation between member states for effective risk analysis

Another crucial dimension ofICS2 is enhanced cooperation between member states. The system facilitates the smooth and rapid exchange of information between different national customs authorities. This improved collaboration is essential for effective EU-wide risk analysis. By sharing data and insights between member countries, ICS2 enables a more comprehensive and accurate overview of potential threats, strengthening the EU's collective ability to prevent cross-border risks and maintain a secure environment for trade and citizens.

Implications for traders

Detailed obligations on economic operators to declare safety and security data

With the introduction ofICS2, economic operators are faced with enhanced obligations in terms of declaring safety and security data. These obligations aim to ensure that all necessary information concerning imported goods is transmitted to EU customs authorities well in advance of their arrival. Each actor in the supply chain, including shippers, carriers and customs agents, must submit a complete entry summary declaration, including precise details of the cargo.

This includes, but is not limited to, the identity of the shipper, description of goods, transport routes, and other information crucial to risk assessment. The accuracy and completeness of this data is essential to enable customs authorities to carry out effective security checks. This increased responsibility is designed to ensure that operators meet the required security standards and actively contribute to preventing the risks associated with importing goods into the EU.

Impact on different types of operators and modes of transport

ICS2 affects various players in the supply chain, including carriers, shippers and freight forwarders, covering all modes of transport (air, sea, road, rail). Each type of operator must adapt its processes to comply with specific advance cargo declaration requirements. For example, air carriers must now provide detailed security information prior to cargo loading, while sea carriers and road freight operators are preparing for future implementation phases. This diversification of requirements across transport modes ensures a consistent and comprehensive approach to safety across the Union.

Facilities offered to authorized traders and IT modifications, in particular the Shared Trader Interface

For Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), ICS2 offers specific advantages such as accelerated procedures and simplified controls, recognizing their status as reliable and secure partners. These facilities are designed to encourage more companies to obtain AEO certification, thereby reinforcing the security of the supply chain as a whole.

At the same time, major IT changes were introduced, including the Shared Trader Interface (STI). This online platform centralizes entry summary declarations, enabling more efficient and unified submission of the required data. The Shared Trader Interface enhances transparency and efficiency by consolidating information in a common repository, making it easier for different national customs authorities to access and process data. These IT innovations make a significant contribution to optimizing customs processes and improving responsiveness to potential risks.

Challenges and prospects

Technical and regulatory challenges associated with ICS2 implementation

The integration ofICS2 presents a number of significant technical and regulatory challenges for EU traders and customs authorities. From a technical point of view, the deployment of an IT infrastructure capable of efficiently managing and securing a huge volume of data represents a colossal task. The need to guarantee data integrity, confidentiality and accessibility calls for advanced and robust technological solutions, particularly in terms of cybersecurity.

On the regulatory front, the harmonization of customs procedures between different member states poses a major challenge. Each EU country has to integrate the ICS2 directives into its national legislative framework, which can lead to delays and inconsistencies. What's more, economic operators have to familiarize themselves with these new regulations and adapt their operations accordingly, which often requires training and investment in human and material resources.

These challenges require close collaboration between all stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to ICS2, while minimizing the impact on day-to-day business and maximizing the benefits in terms of improved security and more effective risk management.

Anticipation of future phases and expected impact on other transport vectors

Anticipating the future phases of ICS2 is crucial to effectively prepare all transport vectors for full system integration. Future stages will include expansion to maritime, road and rail transport modes, each with its own specificities and requirements. These expansions, scheduled for 2024 and 2025, will require adaptation of existing infrastructures, in-depth training of the personnel involved and regular updating of procedures. The impact on these transport vectors will be significant, aiming for enhanced security and more homogeneous risk management across all EU entrances, improving responsiveness to threats while supporting smooth, regulated trade.

Future prospects and expected system developments, particularly in relation to Brexit and other geopolitical changes

ICS2's future prospects are closely linked to current geopolitical dynamics, such as Brexit. Brexit-induced changes, for example, require customs processes to be adapted to manage the new trade borders between the UK and the EU. ICS2 will need to continue to evolve to address these challenges, integrating risk management capabilities adapted to changing trade flows and customs regulations. In addition, ICS2 can play a key role in how the EU responds to other geopolitical changes, ensuring greater flexibility and resilience in the face of possible new threats or trade agreements. This adaptability will be essential to maintaining the security and efficiency of the EU's borders in a constantly evolving international context.

Resources and support

Tools and resources provided by the European Commission to help companies comply with ICS2

The European Commission is making available a series oftools and resources designed specifically to help companies navigate the requirements of ICS2. These resources include detailed guides, training webinars, and access to the European Shared Trader Interface (STI) portal, which simplifies the reporting process by enabling companies to submit and manage their information centrally. In addition, the Commission offers ongoing technical support and regular updates to help traders keep abreast of the latest developments in the system and compliance practices.

The importance of consulting FAQs and information materials for a successful adaptation

Regular consultation of FAQs and information materials is essential for successful adaptation to ICS2. These resources, available on the European Commission and national customs websites, provide answers to frequently asked questions and clarify complex aspects of declaration and compliance procedures. They also help companies understand best practices and mistakes to avoid, facilitating a smoother transition to the new regulatory requirements. Proactive use of this information can significantly reduce the risk of non-compliance and optimize companies' import processes within the EU.

The transformative impact of ICS2 on EU security and trade

ICS2 has brought significant improvements to EU border security by instituting a more rigorous and proactive control system for incoming goods. Thanks to advanced data collection and analysis technologies, as well as improved coordination between member states, ICS2 enables early identification of threats and rapid intervention to intercept high-risk cargo. These enhanced capabilities help not only to protect the EU's internal market and consumers, but also to boost confidence in the security of cross-border trade.

In the future, ICS2 is set to play a central role in EU-wide customs risk management, continually adapting its functionality to meet emerging challenges and geopolitical changes, such as Brexit. As a model of regulatory and technological cooperation, ICS2 could influence other regions of the world by demonstrating the effectiveness of integrated, data-driven border management. Its continued development and improvement will have important implications not only for security, but also for the fluidity and efficiency of global trade, promoting a safer and more regulated international trading environment.


  1. What is ICS2?
    ‍ICS2 (Import Control System 2) is a customs system implemented by the European Union to improve import security by collecting and analyzing information on goods before they arrive at EU borders.
  2. Why is ICS2 important for EU security?
    plays a crucial role in protecting the EU by enabling early identification of threats and facilitating targeted interventions to manage risks before goods reach EU borders, thus contributing to the safety of consumers and the internal market.
  3. Who is affected by ICS2?
    affects a wide range of economic operators, including shippers, carriers, customs agents and importers, all of whom must comply with advanced declaration requirements for goods entering the EU.
  4. What are the main deployment phases for ICS2?
    is being rolled out in several phases, each targeting different operator groups and transport modes. The first phase began in March 2021, and subsequent phases continue to expand to include other types of transport and goods.
  5. How does ICS2 affect Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs)?
    ‍Authorized Economic Operators benefit from simplified procedures and facilities under ICS2, recognizing their status as reliable and secure trading partners, enabling them to speed up their customs clearance operations.
  6. What tools and resources does the European Commission offer to help with ICS2 compliance?
    European Commission provides various tools and resources, such as guides, online training, and access to the European Shared Trader Interface (STI) portal, to help companies comply with ICS2 requirements and navigate the system effectively.
  7. What are the future implications of ICS2 for global trade?
    the future, ICS2 is set to enhance customs risk management and global security, while facilitating legitimate trade. Its ongoing evolution will address emerging challenges and potentially influence global customs practices by promoting a more integrated, data-driven approach to border management

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