WCO supports ash cloud crisis trade recovery efforts

21 April 2010

WCO supports ash cloud crisis trade recovery efforts

Brussels, 21 April 2010

Press Release

The World Customs Organziation (WCO) has called on Customs authorities around the world to expedite Customs clearances of air freight, to the greatest extent possible, to support rapid global recovery of aircargo supply chains following the volcanic ash cloud crisis that shutdown much of Europe’s airspace for one week, resulting in the airline industry suffering its worst disruption since 9/11.

Eurocontrol, the pan-European air traffic control agency, estimates that around 95 000 flights were grounded since no-fly zones were introduced on 15 April. This affected not only passengers but also left trade stranded in many countries across the globe. According to the BBC, IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani estimates the shutdown to have caused losses in revenue to the airline industry of 250 million US Dollars per day. Losses to global business are expected to run into billions.

More favourable weather conditions yesterday enabled European authorities to begin a phased opening of airports but it is expected to take days to recover and clear the backlog. More than 50% of the normal number of flights is expected to land and take-off across Europe with the lifting of the ban.

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya said, “The global Customs community is ready to support international efforts that will bolster recovery. I have issued this call as a means of galvanising Customs authorities to facilitate trade by expediting Customs clearances of air freight to the greatest extent possible as this will play an important role in ensuring that global trade begins to flow as smoothly and as fast as possible.”

The impact on trade of the European shutdown is being felt across the globe. Many firms dependent on rapidly moving their goods, especially perishables, using fast air freight had felt the strain. A Reuters report states that Kenya's flower exporters are said to have lost up to 2 million US Dollars per day while South Korea's Incheon International Airport, the world's fourth-busiest cargo handler in 2008, suffered 3,216 tonnes of lost shipments to Europe in the first four days of the crisis.

Mr. Mikuriya added, “Customs are aware that since moving to just-in-time production methods, businesses are vulnerable to any trade disruptions. To facilitate trade and fast clearance of goods, the WCO has developed a range of instruments and tools that assist Customs in their daily operations. Two in particular can help Customs to speed up its response to recovery efforts – the WCO revised Kyoto Convention on the simplification and harmonization of Customs procedures and the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines.”

The WCO believes that efficient Customs procedures are critical, even more so in a time of crisis and to ensure rapid recovery. It will continue to promote Customs best practices and ensure that administrations have the capacity to effectively deal with the challenges posed by global trade.