Impatex has unveiled its new pan-European solution for multi-national freight agents and traders.
Called ICE (Integrated Customs for Europe), the new system will take over from the company’s market-leading Customs Manager program ’ which began life in 1998, is now used by 15 of the UK’s top 30 airfreight agents, and handles over 50% of all UK airfreight clearances. ICE will be introduced in phases over the next 18 months.
Impatex will meanwhile continue its two-product strategy aimed at serving the needs of users of all sizes. This will see it further develop and market its new NetFreight combined forwarding and frontier Customs software, targeted at small- to medium-sized users.
ICE brings a significant new direction to the company’s activities, being the first system to cater for customers whose operations span multiple EU member states. Users can select any EU language for the program’s screens.
Like Customs Manager, ICE will be multi-modal, and will cater for DTI, ERTS, NES, NCTS and Duty Management; it will also handle new regimes as they go live. Phase 1 of ICE, which will be completed by mid 2009, will accommodate the Exports regimes (NES, ECS, NCTS and the new EORI ’ Economic Operators’ Registration Identifier ’ being introduced at the same time as ECS in July 2009).
Phase 2’ - due for completion in 2009 Q3 - will add Frontier Imports facilities (SAD and ERTS), while Phase 3 (due for release by mid 2010) will handle Duty Management (CFSP/Duty Warehousing, IPR/PCC, OPR and Intrastat).
Phase 4 of ICE (also due for release in mid 2010) will deal with the new ICS regime, once the specification is made available. Impatex is considering a 5th phase to include forwarding functionality, if there is sufficient demand from users of ICE, as comprehensive freight management is already available in NetFreight.
Behind the scenes, ICE is a totally new program using state-of-the-art systems and architecture to introduce new capabilities, simplify future development and accommodate much larger operations. ICE is based on SQL, which removes the limit on user numbers imposed by Customs Manager’s Visual Fox Pro (VFP) databases. ICE is also a single integrated program, so users will no longer need to switch from one module to another. ICE is much more flexible, being capable of operation over a LAN (local area network), WAN (wide area network) or the Internet.
Charging for ICE will be simplified; where Customs Manager is currently charged per module per user, ICE will include all functions within a single charge per user, which will be variable depending on the total number of users. As a result, costs for most UK-only users should actually be less than with Customs Manager, although ICE will not be charged for until Customs Manager is completely replaced by ICE in 2010, in readiness for the introduction of ICS at the end of that year.
Says Impatex MD Peter Day: ‘The time is right to replace Customs Manager. SAD-H and ECS mark the real beginning of a unified approach to Customs processing across Europe, which will create a market for a new, single, pan-European Customs processing solution for larger agents and traders.
‘Customs Manager’s functions and stability have made it the UK market leader, but its VFP foundation is not capable of handling much larger numbers of users and transactions across wide area networks at acceptable processing speeds, all of which will be needed for a pan-European system. VFP is also coming to the end of its life, and will not be supported by Microsoft beyond 2014.
‘ICE will contain all that is best about Customs Manager, but it will also introduce some exciting new features. Chief among these are its ability to operate in different countries using the local language, and over the Internet - which means homeworking, mobile working, disaster recovery and customer access are all now possible.
‘We will phase in ICE alongside Customs Manager, in order to ensure that users never suffer any disruption, and to enable them to familiarize themselves with the new pro