The Port of Hamburg as European Customs Seaport
The Freeport belongs to the past. Since 2013 the Port of Hamburg has conformed to the rules for a European Customs Seaport. That has made traffic flow in the port still swifter and more flexible. In such a Customs Seaport, goods within the EU can be stored, processed and traded free of Customs duties. All goods arriving from a third country outside the EU – so called non-Community goods – must be registered with the ATLAS IT system run by the German Customs. Outside special Customs warehouses, these may only be stored temporarily. During this period, checks commissioned by the German Customs are conducted at the Windhukkai and Waltershof Customs inspection offices. Checks may also be made by the Customs mobile field service.
Transition from Freeport to Customs Seaport
Creation of a European domestic market and almost fully computerized Customs clearance meant the Freeport status, that for 125 years had contributed to Hamburg’s development as an international trade hub, became of less significance. Two-thirds of all goods are now traded free of Customs duties within the European Union, only seldom being stored for a longer period in the port. For this and other reasons and at the request of the Hamburg state government, early in 2011 the Upper and Lower Houses of the German parliament passed a ‘Law for the Abolition of the Hamburg Freeport’. The Freeport zone had covered at least one-fifth of the port area. Following a two-year transitional period, since the beginning of 2013 the general rules for Customs Seaports in the European Union have applied to the whole of the Port of Hamburg. Special custody procedures for the storage and processing of community goods, just like time-consuming empty container checks at border crossing points that caused traffic bottlenecks, have all disappeared.