Meet Our People: Maarten Clarysse

maarten clarysse

Welcome to our exclusive "Meet the People" series, where we take you behind the scenes to meet the dedicated individuals powering Customs Support. These passionate professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of our mission: empowering your global trade.

In this edition, we are excited to present one of our claims and compliance managers from Belgium, Maarten Clarysse, who works with our team in Belgium to keep our operators and clients compliant with customs authorities.

Join us as he shares his experience with claims and compliance.  

Who are you?

My name is Maarten Clarysse, I am 30 years old, and I'm a claims and compliance manager for Customs Support in Belgium. I have been working here for about two years.

What does a claims and compliance manager do?

For claims, we work with clients to resolve issues when they arise. This means getting penalties as low as possible and showing authorities there is a plan for improvement.

Compliance-wise, we are working with customers and their/our operational teams to make sure that they are in line with legislation, and ready for changes. For example, those such as CBAM, IDMS, AES, and Russian sanctions, their AEO obligations, and applying for a special procedure. It’s about preventing, assessing and resolving risk. 

We are also involved in managing our customs licenses for Belgium, assessing our own customs procedures and operational work documents, and drafting liability documents or service level agreements with clients. We also assist our customs consultancy department with applications for AEO-certification, customs license requests, or general advice as needed.

The best way to think about my role is that I provide both prevention and treatment for customs infractions.

What does your typical working day look like?

I work with a team of three people, and it’s important to prioritise our tasks. The first thing I do is check updates on our files, and whether we have any new letters from clients that need urgent attention.

From there, we follow up on our cases, liaise with clients, and ensure that we are in close contact with stakeholders for claims and compliance related action plans.

You’ve been with Customs Support for two years. What was your career like before?

I worked for four years at a company in a Belgian terminal that had a customs agent, and before that I was working for an estate company as a legal advisor in letting, selling, and insuring property.

Before working in those roles I studied law at the University of Brussels, so I’ve always been in the legal side of things.

What do you like about working with customs compliance as opposed to other parts of the law?

You can have an impact on a company in this role, and it is in a positive way. When we bring a company in line with legislation, we are not only protecting them from noncompliance – we are also helping them get the most potential out of their customs function.

Even on the claims side, we are helping companies reduce that cost as much as possible which can make a real difference. And it’s not like we are ruling from an ivory tower and saying “Do this; don’t do this” – we work with our customers and I like the results that we get and what it means to them.

What are the common claims that you manage? How do they come to pass rather than being caught in compliance?

When we receive claims it is mostly about incorrect customs documents, like errors on the documents concerning value, commodity codes, or on certificates. 

Sometimes it’s the untimely clearance of customs document; other times it’s an issue on the manifest. Some issues cannot always be discovered  when our operational teams draft the declarations, but we have to resolve them, nonetheless.

What are some hot compliance topics at the moment?

The conflict with Ukraine and the sanctions are a constant query at the moment as there are goods cannot import – like those relating to the new sanctions on Russian iron and steel. This is something that is easy to provide guidance and prevent noncompliance on.

Another topic that we are discussing with clients is the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which is in its reporting stage at the moment. We are helping our clients understand their obligations and keeping them informed on changes as we attend more meetings and seminars on the updates.

How are we improving compliance?

In Belgium we are heavily digitalised compared to some other the other areas of the EU, which means that we look to automate as much as possible. 

Errors on import declarations can cause miscalculations on taxes, so one of the first things we do is look to reduce manual entry and automate this input across your supply chain. We actively encourage traders to work with their suppliers on digital documents and XML files so that we can receive clean data. 

It’s not always possible, so there is some manual entry required, but even a little automation greatly reduces the risk of error. It is also important to reduce paper use from a hazard and sustainability point of view.

Sustainability is a big topic across the EU. How are we helping? 

Last year, we began to look at our sustainability across the group – and created a baseline report for sustainability in Q1 of this year. Our procedures are now in place, and we are looking for a more comprehensive report at the end of this year when we have better data.

Obviously, we are a digital-first customs partner, so our paper use is going down as we continue to improve our digitalisation. We have also introduced electric cars in some areas to reduce our carbon footprint.

In Belgium specifically, we were recently awarded with the Forward Goals for sustainable development - GOLD logo. This means we have completed more than 10, unrelated sustainable projects. This status lasts for two years, and I’m sure we will look to keep it as we develop. 

What do you like about being part of a Europe-wide network of customs experts?

It’s good to see how governments, countries, and colleagues respond to new legislation. We have a monthly meeting between all compliance managers and other colleagues across Europe. It gives us a lot of insight into how we can approach the same thing in different ways and also provides an effective committee for brainstorming.

For example, we have been able to discuss preparing for CBAM with our colleagues across the EU and compare notes on what’s working, what issues we have, and how to proceed. It’s invaluable.

What’s a procedural change you have made internally based on a common customer issue?

We have increased our checks and compliance processes when onboarding those seeking customs fiscal representation in Belgium. In order to prevent fiscal claims, we work closely with our clients to get the necessary documentation/proof in order in case the VAT Authorities would require it.

Linked to this, our onboarding process is being reviewed and made clearer for our clients as well. We try to obtain a win-win int his regard: better compliance clauses but also more clarity on what the client can expect from our services.

Now, we are working with clients to ensure they have the right knowledge of their obligations, how their paperwork post-clearance needs to look, and other peculiarities that can lead to a claim.

What do you like to do when you're not at work, and how do you think that impacts your work skills?

I play football, and cycle as well. It’s fun, keeps me active, and reduces my stress, which helps me to be more relaxed and focused when at work.

What is the most important thing that a client should look for in a customs partner?

Accurate information, and great communication when we don’t yet have the answer. We are service providers and here to work with our clients, so they need to trust that we have the answer or will find it – we can’t leave them hanging or in the dark.

You work with a Europe-wide network. If you were to visit an office location of Custom Support, which country would you like to go and see first and why?

I have heard that Italy has very nice offices, so I’d like to go see them. Maybe take the bike.