On 25 January 2017, the Belgian Act on the processing of passenger name records (“PNR Act”) was published in the Belgian Official Gazette. The PNR Act implements three EU directives in the Belgian legal order: Directive 2016/681 on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime, Directive 2010/65 on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States, and Directive 2004/82 on the obligation of carriers to communicate passenger data.

The PNR Act obliges carriers and travel operators in the different transport sectors to transmit their passenger data to a central database called the “Passenger Database”, so that these data can be analyzed in the framework of terrorism, violent radicalization, and other forms of serious crime. This will allow law enforcement agencies to determine new trends and phenomena and to assess which passengers could be a danger to the public order. Transport companies and travel operators risk fines of up to €600 000 if they do not comply with this obligation.

However, before the PNR Act can enter into force, some implementing measures have yet to be taken. For instance, a new service called the “Passengers Information Unit” has yet to be established within the Federal Public Service Internal Affairs. This Unit will be in charge of the Passenger Database and cooperate with the Passenger Information Units of other member states, with Europol, and with third countries.

The PNR Act takes into account the privacy of the passengers by, amongst other things, (i) imposing the obligation to appoint a data protection officer within the Passenger Information Unit; (ii) strictly determining which categories of data may and may not be processed (i.e., no data relating to racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion, health, or sex life), (iii) imposing a maximum data retention period of five years, and (iv) imposing the obligation to de-personalize the data after six months from the registration thereof.

The date of entry into force of the PNR Act will later be determined in its implementing decisions. In any event, the lawmaker will evaluate this three years after the PNR Act enters into force.