We take a smart approach, cooperate, provide a service and strike a balance between control and facilitation. That is how we do our work.
We carry out checks in various ways. We make sure that members of the public and companies know the rules. And that they can be easily adhered to by providing understandable information, clear procedures and easy systems. We check declarations of goods and other documents, such as authorisations and exemptions.
And we check the goods themselves. We also check companies' accounts to see if they have declared all their goods. We carry out supervision in ports, at airports and along the coast. To do our job, we have our own laboratory, boats, dogs, scanners, a drone team and a diving team. All our checks complement and reinforce each other.
Customs work is automated as much as possible. But to a large extent, it is human work. We have over 6,000 customs officers. They occupy all sorts of positions: from operational to strategic, from customer contact to IT. Approximately half of them are special investigating officers. These employees do the physical supervision, i.e. the checks on location. They work in uniform and are sometimes armed. They are authorised to search ships, planes, containers and suitcases, among other things. Many employees have a specialist field. They know everything about aspects such as protected species, wood, watches, counterfeit goods or art.
Providing service forms the basis of all we do. We put a lot of effort into clear declaration procedures and systems. And in sound information. That way, businesses and members of the public know the rules, and we make it as easy as possible for them to do what they need to do. For example, we run campaigns for travellers. That ensures they know what they can and cannot bring to and from their holiday destination. And we have a recurring campaign about the rules for online shopping outside the European Union. To help businesses prepare for Brexit, we have also created customs.co.uk/info/brexit.php.
A balance between controls and facilitation
Fast and easy customs clearance for businesses to keep trade moving. This is important because a great deal of money is involved in trade and logistics. These sectors provide many jobs. That is good for the whole of the Netherlands. We are always looking to strike a balance between our two roles: supervising and facilitating. We do this by providing easy procedures and accessible systems. And by minimising the administrative burden and logistical delays by carrying out checks as little and as briefly as possible.
Unimaginably large quantities of goods cross the border. And there are more and more of them. That is why we have to take a ‘smart’ approach. We collect information from various sources and enrich the data with our knowledge of goods. That is how we determine the greatest risks and focus our checks on them.
During our checks, we use scanning and detection equipment. These are devices that monitor the contents of a suitcase or container. This helps us to make a reasonable assessment whether it is necessary to carry out more extensive checks. For example, at the Maasvlakte near Rotterdam, we have a large scanner that can scan a complete truck with a container in one go. We also have detection gates at the entrances and exits of the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport that automatically measure radioactivity.
We are constantly working on ever smarter technologies and methods. Together with academies, business and science, we are testing promising technologies for scanning and detection. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, sensor technology, algorithms and auto-detection: we are - or soon will be - using them. We have more and more sources and data at our disposal, which gives us more opportunities to use and enrich that data effectively.
We cooperate a good deal with other parties. Such as our clients, other enforcement agencies and the business community. Together we are stronger.