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CCS-UK fallback to secure safety of airfreight supply chain

[ June 30, 2017   //   ]

Three decades on from the Travicom debacle that shut down the UK’s airfreight for several days, an electronic fallback system is available to prevent a similar meltdown in the event of a prolonged outage of HMRC’s computer systems.

The BT-owned CCS-UK air cargo electronic community system unveiled a new electronic back-up system on 29 June, which it said would prevent the catastrophic impact of a systems failure by the HMRC CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system. Although it has been in existence for about a year, it has now received formal Customs approval and is ready for use.

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.

FBJ’s very oldest readers will remember how Heathrow airport’s cargo operations ground to almost a complete halt in 1986 after a replacement system for HM Customs’ original LACES computer proved to be completely inadequate. Airfreight was stranded on the tarmac for days until LACES could be reinstated.

LACES was eventually replaced by the current CHIEF system in 1994, but the complexity of the system and the need to prevent unauthorised access to the system has meant that until now, it has operated without a back-up.

CHIEF is now earmarked for replacement by CDS in about two years’, and CCS-UK Fallback is also expected to smooth the in the event of any teething problems with the new hardware or software.

Launching the new system, CCS-UK user group chairman and DHL’s head of customs for Europe, Steve Parker, said: “If CHIEF goes down tomorrow, we now have a process, so freight can flow in and out of our airports.”

He added: “We hope though that we will never have to use it” but also urged CCS UK users to learn how to use the fallback system beforehand.

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