We are AEO Certificates – and what do they bring for the Customer?

Axel Hoeckrich, Managing Director of the Ulrich Stein GmbH, explains the pros of the AEO-Status.


What does AEO actually mean, and what different variants are there?
Anybody who has acquired AEO status is signalling to his business partners that the Customs has registered him as an Authorised Economic Operator. The goal is to provide security for the entire international supply chain from the producer to the final consumer.
AEO Certification is a quality seal certifying especially trustworthy and reliable status with the Customs authorities. Every company based in the European Union and involved in the Customs process can apply for this status in three variants:


  • AEO Certificate “Customs simplifications” (AEO C)
  • AEO Certificate “Security” (AEO S)
  • AEO Certificate “Customs simplifications / Security” (AEO F)


The variants differ in respect of the conditions for authorization and the related benefits. As a rule, logistics providers like Ulrich Stein implement the highest, AEO F Certificate.

You have already gathered experience: What benefit does a company derive from certification?
Article 14B ZK-DVO of the Customs code makes various concessions that we wish to pass on to our customers if possible. These concessions extend from the speeding up of approval procedures, to less frequent scrutiny of goods or documents, to lower levels of security service precautions. However, to secure these all the companies involved in the supply chain need to be certified. In other European countries even more benefits are being granted than in Germany, but this is currently being changed with the introduction of the modernized German Customs Code.

Do you believe that AEO Certification will in future become a standard?
AEO Certification is already standard in many industries. Worldwide, the AEO Certificate is one of the main essentials for being able as a logistics service provider to respond to calls for tenders, e.g. in engineering. In fruit logistics the status of the AEO Certificate is not yet so high, but it is importance of growing importance. HHLA’s fruit-handling terminal, for example, is therefore being certified under AEO this year.

What questions does a company seeking this certification actually need to answer?
An extensive list of self-assessment questions needs to be answered for certification. Along with very general items of information, these also cover previous observation of Customs regulations, book-keeping and logistics systems, solvency and adherence to security requirements. I can quote two typical questions as examples:


  • Give the reasons why your company is in a secure financial position.
  • Name the person responsible in your organization for Customs matters, giving date of birth, function, and qualification(s)

Does AEO certification involve a very elaborate procedure for companies?
When you have completed the application pack, it will be inspected on the spot by Customs officials as part of a roughly one-day audit. My experience indicates that in a straightforward company there is no essential need to detach or train a member of staff. Nevertheless, experience with Customs authorities is a great help. Ulrich Stein possesses this and we are therefore happy to assist our customers with the certification process.

How does AEO differ from other standards such as IFS Broker?
International food standards such as IFS Broker have been developed by international associations and are aimed at providing consumer protection. By contrast, the AEO scheme supplies the security policy parameters at European level for effective, modern risk management in Customs administrations. By implementing AEO, the European Union has fulfilled the call of the World Customs Organization (WCO) for a “Framework of Standards to Secure and to Facilitate Global Trade”.