"Customers are looking for a comprehensive service"

"Customers are looking for a comprehensive service"

Véronique Jeannes and Christian Parisi of French Customs Broker DEBEAUX TRANSIT talk about unusual goods, how digitization makes work easier and what sets the French broker market apart.

AEB: Hello Véronique and Christian! Can you give our readers a brief introduction to the Debeaux company?

Christian: Debeaux Transit was founded in 1985. Our core business is customs and international freight forwarding, so we're a customs and freight forwarding agent. We began with imports from South-East Asia, mainly by air. A few years later, sea freight took over, due to lower costs. So, we followed the trend and learned to serve customers trading by sea.

The United States was our next stop, followed by South America, the Near and Middle East.

AEB: With local partners?

Christian: Yes, we work with a network of partner agents in these countries. And since the end of last year, we've had our own subsidiaries in Belgium and Mauritius. These are the companies that provide on-site customs clearance and international transport services.

AEB: What does your role as Sales Manager entail in concrete terms, Christian?

Christian: When I arrive in the morning, I find out about the commercial proposals our international partners have to offer, because they work in different time zones. These offers are the responses to our preliminary requests for quotations, which I then use to set up our offers. Together with my sales assistants, we send them to our customers. Afterwards, I spend a good part of my time chasing up prospects.

Apart from sales, I'm part of Customer Service. Here, we act as an intermediary between local agents and transport service providers. We monitor air and sea shipments and keep our customers informed.

Our work is structured and always follows the timing of the countries where the goods depart, as they tend to have a time difference of several hours compared to where we are located.

AEB: Véronique, what does a typical work day look like for you?

Véronique : There's no such thing as a typical day in my area of work, because my activities are really very varied. I deal with our external service providers, electricians, telecommunication operators, and so on.

But I also manage the configuration of our customs software together with our customs software provider. And a very important part is managing the AEB relationship, which includes all kinds of technical, customs-related, and commercial issues that are specific to each customer. I'm the main point of contact for all your questions, so I'm always up to date on our exchanges.

"We act as an intermediary between local agents and transport service providers."

AEB: And that keeps one busy indeed... Let's take a look at DEBEAUX TRANSIT as a logistics and customs service provider. What is the relationship between the two?

Christian: They are complementary services. In my opinion, in France, transport and customs have to go hand in hand. The market encourages this. I'd go so far as to say that it's compulsory in order to remain a service provider. Very few companies specialize solely in customs services. The classic route is for a forwarder to extend their logistics services to include customs clearance. French customers are looking for a comprehensive service, including sea and domestic transport.

On the other hand, there are other markets, such as the United States, where customs clearance operates as a separate business.

"In my opinion, in France, transport and customs have to go hand in hand"


DEBEAUX TRANSIT is a subsidiary of the French DESLOG group and one of the last independent forwarders and customs brokers in France. It has been active on the French market since 1985 in the fields of transport and logistics.

DEBEAUX TRANSIT, with its agents, subsidiaries and correspondents, specialises in international transport for both import and export and offers a full range of customs services to customers across Europe. It maintains offices in several cities across France (Marseille, Fos-sur-Mer, Le Havre, Dunkerque, Strasbourg, Lyon and Roissy Charles de Gaulle).

AEB: What is Debeaux's position within the Deslog group?

Christian: The Deslog group specializes in logistics services. We've been part of the group since 2019. Debeaux has its own place in global logistics by sea or air. The other subsidiaries are more involved in road transport, thanks to their fleet of vehicles, or in the storage of goods, or they specialize in certain products such as wood.

AEB: Debeaux's customers are very diverse. From plants to bread rolls, you cover a wide range of goods. What are the most extraordinary goods you've reported?

Christian: We've seen a lot of different types of merchandise, such as flight simulators.

AEB: I imagine it required special customs documents?

Christian: No special documents, even the customs clearance procedure is nothing special in itself, but it's the cash flow that's the main issue with these items. With a very high customs value, these products are heavily taxed during customs clearance, so we need to secure payments with regard to customs duties and VAT.
In addition to these high-value goods, we have been dealing with the import and export of animals such as live fish, frogs, aquarium plants, and so on.

For some months now, we have been preparing customs declarations for a transporter of racehorses. These animals are transported in trailers and don't have to wait long at the border crossing. That’s why we prepared the data transmission and file processing in advance. We pay particular attention to the documents required by customs. In partnership with AEB, we've done a great job on this project, even though we were a little apprehensive at first, as it was a first for all of us.

"We have been dealing with the import and export of animals such as live fish, frogs, aquarium plants."

AEB: What impact did the pandemic have on the activities of service providers in France, especially in the customs sector?

Christian: In concrete terms, Debeaux Transit did not experience a sharp drop in business during the COVID pandemic compared with other sectors. On the contrary, we saw an increase in customs and airfreight transactions, because we served some of the importers of face masks in France. The emergency situation justified a reduction in the VAT rate by the French government from 20% to 5.5%. We had to help customers who wanted to find a way to recover the difference retrospectively. We were working under quite a bit of pressure, because the authorities repeatedly changed and adapted the parameters, so we had to follow the authorities' announcements closely. But in the end, we were happy to see our sales double in just a few months.

Debeaux Transit, on the other hand, was indirectly impacted by the pandemic, as various airport and port operators, as well as road hauliers, experienced delays in deliveries because of the shortage of staff responsible for handling goods arriving in France. Later, our logistics activities suffered from a shortage of truck drivers.

Looking back, that period of time was intense, but beneficial for our company.

Meet our Brokers

In a series of interviews, we take a closer look at our broker partners around the world and the intricacies of their day-to-day work in customs.

Some are generalists, others specialize in certain goods, all of them are experts for their country or countries. They have all joined the AEB Customs Broker Network that provides hassle-free, digitalized access to broker services for companies looking for reliable customs expertise.

AEB: How did you come across Customs Broker Integration?

Véronique: It was AEB who came looking for Debeaux, through LinkedIn.

"Looking back, covid times were intense, but beneficial for our company."

AEB: That's right. At the time, AEB experienced a high demand, linked to Brexit, and was looking for a good customs service provider based in France.

Christian: We met following the consequences of Brexit, and, in fact, we're grateful for that. Why? The partnership with AEB has brought us an increase in business and a diversification of clients. Whether we are working for a customer transporting containers from China, or for a wholesaler importing cookies and snacks from the UK, are two completely different matters. In the latter case, we're dealing with very short lead times between loading the means of transport and entering the country of destination. In the event of a truck being stopped by authorities in a paying parking lot, we have to intervene immediately with customs.

In short, together with AEB, we have developed a certain expertise in post-Brexit trade. This commercial development has enabled us to hire staff and it has led to economic growth.

AEB: What has changed since you set up the interface with AEB?

Christian: Our customs clearance service runs faster and more smoothly, thanks to the data exchanged via the interfaces. For us, the AEB platform is a tool that enables us to clear goods in a more modern and direct way. It definitely saves time compared to the traditional transmission mode, when the driver had to stop at the customs office, go through the paperwork, wait for the release of goods, etc. What also changed are the extended working hours, meaning the ability to process declarations beyond regular working hours. In the end, Debeaux adapted its workflow to the AEB product.

Véronique: And above all, our transaction volume has increased and the number of customers, too. The start in 2021 was rather timid, a kind of gamble, because, for us, it represented an investment that might not have come to fruition. Now we can say the investment has paid off. This growth has translated into two2 new hires.

Now, the roles are reversed, with AEB soon becoming our service provider for customs software in Belgium. It's a relationship that's progressing and that's beneficial for both parties.

"Our customs clearance service runs faster and more smoothly, thanks to the data exchanged via the interfaces."

AEB: What are the challenges and benefits for you in terms of AEB customers and their data transmitted via the interface?

Véronique: So far, AEB customers have traded between the EU states and Great Britain, so for us, customs via road was a new way of working compared to overseas shipments. The logistics process is different, but so is the type of customer. For example, we assist AEB customers with SIVEP (Service d'inspection pour les marchandises vétérinaires et phytosanitaires), which was another first for us.

The exchange of customs information happens very smoothly, with a well-designed system in the middle, which makes working a lot easier. We also appreciate the good communication between partners and AEB’s ability to adapt to us.

AEB: And vice-versa. ... What's the difference in the way you work with AEB customers and your own?

Véronique : Within the AEB partnership, we only provide the customs service, without combining it with transport. Usually, we also handle transport. Our "Brexit" customers need more responsiveness. Once the data has been entered into our software, our team processes it as quickly as possible, within 20 minutes at the latest. Completely different from our direct customers, for whom we also provide the transport services. Here, we receive the customs data well in advance and we process it in line with our own logistics management.

AEB: Do you have many customers providing data ready for customs clearance? What is the dispersion?

Véronique : Unfortunately not. Most of our customers don't have a data integration system. For our part, we've set up a tool that recovers data from the commercial invoice. This facilitates the work of our declarants and helps a lot when there's a declaration with many tariff items. If all our customers had an integrated system like yours, it would certainly simplify our lives. We often receive commercial invoices in pdf format, and our declarants make manual entries in the customs software.

AEB: Are you seeing an improvement in data quality?

Véronique: We're very happy with the quality of the data we receive through your platform. It's the accompanying documents that can sometimes be problematic. It depends on the customer. I'm thinking of those who trade in high-value live goods, for example. They are subject to more constraints, and the customs authorities often require additional information.

AEB: Everyone talks about data quality and how it can make services better. Do you think customs brokers underestimate the topic?

Véronique: Cutting edge technology hasn’t quite reached customs agents in France yet. We do not advertise technology or data quality to our customers. At Debeaux, we have the small advantage that I set up some tools that facilitate data integration.

"If all our customers had an integrated system like yours, it would certainly simplify our lives."

AEB: Especially for French customers: Do you think it’s easy to convince customers to send high data quality?

Véronique: No, it's difficult to insist on data quality with French customers when they don't have the means, the equipment, the processes, and the experience.

AEB: In what way do things become more complex when there are several parties involved?

Véronique: For us, not controlling transport as well is the most complicated part. We don't have a contractual relationship with the carriers, but we do need to exchange information with them. When we need information from the field, we contact the trader, who then contacts his haulier, etc. Sometimes, transport is even subcontracted to a third party. This creates a chain of potential contacts which may lead to an extended processing of a customs declaration.

AEB: What are your plans and wishes for the future?

Christian: We've opened several agencies in France: Bordeaux, Dunkirk, Lyon, Le Havre, and Marseille, as well as abroad. The aim will be to develop these locations commercially, so hopefully, AEB will bring us more business for these destinations.

AEB: What kind of challenges do you foresee for the next few years? How do you prepare for them?

Véronique: I see two main goals for the future that we're already working on: adapting to new demands on the AEB side and establishing ourselves internationally to offer services in more countries outside France.

The direct line to your customs brokers

The AEB software Customs Broker Integration digitizes the collaboration with your customs brokers. Choose one of the trusted partners from AEB's broker platform to work with or simply connect your own broker.