Brunner: Trieste–Villach customs corridor will make Austria a more attractive place to do business
Pilot project to start before the end of the year – shipments to be shifted to the more environmentally friendly option of rail – logistics handling and customs clearance to be speed up

A pilot project is getting under way for the customs corridor between the Port of Trieste and the Logistics Centre Austria South (LCAS) in Villach/Fürnitz, the only one of its kind in the EU. The customs agreements and the document marking the start of the pilot project were officially signed at a ceremony held earlier today (1 December 2022). The corridor is geared primarily towards speeding up logistics handling and customs clearance in Italy and Austria in order to make both countries more attractive places to do business while also helping to move shipments from roads to rail – a much more climate-friendly mode of transport. The pilot project involving the first trains will get under way before the end of December 2022, with timetabled operation set to begin some time next year.

Finance Minister Magnus Brunner declared: “With this customs corridor, we have created a genuine flagship project for logistics and customs operations, because there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the EU. It’ll strengthen Austria’s business credentials and our position as a landlocked country. The shipments that we clear through customs don’t just go on to somewhere else in Austria – some are sent off to destinations all across Europe. Austria will thus be able to carve out a position for itself as a key logistics hub for pan-European trade. I’d like to thank everyone involved in the project, whose many years of hard work have enabled it to get off the ground.”

“With the hub in Villach being in such a favourable location geographically, this customs corridor will give Italy a project that can serve as a role model for how to improve links between its ports and the single market even further,” said its Ambassador Stefano Beltrame.

“With today’s signing of the agreement for a customs corridor between the Port of Trieste and the Logistics Centre in Villach, we – and Carinthia – are once again writing history,” commented Peter Kaiser, Governor of Carinthia. “Today, we’re laying the foundations for establishing Europe’s first-ever customs corridor. As well as bringing Carinthia even closer to its partner region of Friuli, with which it is already working together in many different ways, we’re also launching yet another internationally prominent flagship that will create many new jobs, attract new businesses, facilitate new economic partnerships and foster prosperity. Combined with the efforts being driven by Carinthia and Styria to set up a Southern Economic Zone, which will be linked by the Koralm railway and which will be home to 1.1 million people – making it the second largest in Austria behind Vienna – the Port of Trieste–Villach customs corridor marks the culmination of a once-in-a-lifetime political vision that will also benefit generations to come.”

Sebastian Schuschnig, the member of the provincial parliament responsible for economic affairs and logistics, explained: “The customs corridor is a real game-changer for Carinthia as a place to do business. A project that will serve as a model for the whole of Europe is taking shape within the province. With it, we’re laying the groundwork for positioning Carinthia as an EU-wide economic hub at the heart of the Alpe-Adria region that also lies at the intersection of two major European transport routes. By establishing a direct connection between the Logistics Centre Austria South in Villach/Fürnitz and the Port of Trieste and doing away with all the red tape, the whole economic zone will be getting a USP without parallel anywhere in Europe. Together with the Koralm railway, another once-in-a-generation project for the area, Carinthia is set to become a highly attractive place for businesses to move to and gain some completely new economic opportunities for creating value and jobs in the region. It’s also a boon for sustainability, because more flows of goods are going to be shifted onto the rails in the future.”

Goods from non-EU countries to come straight to Austria from Trieste for customs clearance

The companies involved (Port of Trieste/Monfalcone and OeBB; Adriafer, the operator of the storage facility; and OeBB Rail Cargo Group plus the Logistics Centre Austria South) developed the customs corridor solution together with the Italian and Austrian customs authorities. In the future, it will be possible to send goods from non-EU countries from their container ship in the Port of Trieste by rail non-stop to Austria, all the way to the logistics hub in Villach, at which point they will finally go through customs.

Said OeBB CEO Andreas Matthä: “For OeBB, Trieste is an important hub for shipments moving from and to Austria and elsewhere inland in Europe. Through our goods traffic subsidiary OeBB Rail Cargo Group, we’re one of the leading logistics companies in the Port of Trieste. I’m delighted that we’re now consolidating our partnership and working together on an innovative, efficient solution for the Carinthian economy and efforts to protect the environment. By offering joint services, we want to get the rising volumes of goods arriving at Trieste by ship onto the rails and on their onward journey faster and more efficiently in future. My thanks go to all the partners for the excellent working relationship we enjoy, and I’m looking forward to taking this initiative further. After all, it is only by working together that we will be able to achieve the sea change in transport policy we need and get goods from road to rail.”

Jürgen Mandl, President of the Carinthian Economic Chamber, stressed: “This milestone in cross-border cooperation will make the Villach area an important cargo handling centre for the whole of Southern and Central Europe and, via the future Baltic–Adriatic Corridor, even as far as the Baltic Sea. The opening of the Koralm railway in 2026 will inject even more momentum into Carinthia and thus create a new ‘Southern Austria Economic Zone’ together with Styria. I’d expressly like to thank our Italian friends. Their support and dedication means that we’re now able to launch this project – one that will set an example for the whole of Europe – at the level of the Economic Chambers of Alpen-Adria following many years of talks and groundwork.”

Customs Authority Austria to ensure efficient clearance together with its Italian colleagues

“The main challenge for customs clearance from both an economic and a technical perspective lies in aligning the workflow of various stakeholders in such a way that you guarantee the free flow of goods and a smooth overall process as well compliance with the rules of international trade. Plus you need to allocate the relevant tasks and responsibilities clearly. The highly professional partnership between everyone involved enabled us to come up with some clever and efficient solutions,” said Heike Fetka-Blüthner, Head of the Customs Authority Austria.

The competent customer team at the Customs Authority Austria’s South office is responsible at both the Fürnitz and Villach sites for handling the customs corridor from an operational perspective as well as customs clearances and related customs checks. The team on the ground consists of twenty-two members of staff, nine of whom are based in Fürnitz. The risk-based checks carried out on site are supported by service dogs, mobile X-ray vehicles and other technical equipment.