A new electronic fallback system will prevent a meltdown in the UK’s vitally important air cargo industry, in the event of a prolonged outage of HMRC’s vital CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system; having received formal Customs approval, the system is now ready for use.
The air cargo industry plays a major role in the UK economy: according to a report issued by the Airports Commission in 2015, around 40% by value of the UK’s trade outside the EU is transported by air, with the total value of tradable goods through UK airports exceeding £140 billion ($181 billion) in 2014.
The new CCS-UK capability is designed to prevent the catastrophic impact of a major system failure, which would cause cargo backlogs and mayhem at UK airports, and cost the economy tens of millions of pounds.
‘CCS-UK Fallback’ allows authorised traders to continue processing Customs export declarations in the event of any significant system outage, and receive automatic fallback clearance to ship goods without delay. Import entries will also receive fallback clearance, avoiding the backlogging that would result from manual Customs clearance.
Designed by BT for CCS-UK, the fallback system – once triggered – will function for up to 30 days; as soon as CHIEF returns to normal operation, CCS-UK Fallback will transmit all stored entries for processing in the normal way. The new service is unique to the CCS-UK community and is being provided at no additional cost to its Users.
BT (which built and operates CCS-UK), and the CCS-UK User Group (which represents the User community) have spent three years working on CCS-UK Fallback, collaborating closely with HMRC and the industry to develop the solution.
Steve Parker, DHL’s Head of Customs for Europe and Chairman of the CCS-UK User Group (pictured above at right) said: “We have recently seen the horrendous impact of major IT system failures in aviation, and this cannot be allowed to happen to the UK air cargo industry – which provides essential support to UK trade and industry, helps maintain our competitiveness on the world stage and supplies urgent commodities that are sometimes a matter of life and death.
“With growing airfreight volumes through our major airports, the advent of Heathrow’s third runway, potential additional pressures on Customs systems following Brexit and an ageing HMRC computer system scheduled for replacement in the next few years, there has never been a greater need for the added resilience that this new feature will deliver.”
In addition to providing protection from unplanned outages, CCS-UK Fallback will also smooth the eventual transition from CHIEF to its replacement (CDS), enabling the air cargo industry to continue functioning as normal in the event of any teething problems with the new hardware or software.
Colm O’Neill, managing director, major business and public sector at BT, added: “BT’s technology facilitates the import and export of goods into and out of the country – another example of how our business is supporting the UK’s critical national infrastructure.”
Underscoring the need for the air cargo industry to be ready to deploy CCS-UK Fallback, he continued: “We’re urging the specialist IT systems providers for the air cargo community to update their products to take advantage of this new feature, while the industry as a whole should start training its staff so that everyone is ready to use the new function should we need to implement it.”
To encourage the industry to practice use of CCS-UK Fallback in a live environment, a series of trials is being planned, in which access to CHIEF will be temporarily suspended.