International transport and distribution Introduction Transport and distribution are key considerations when planning for international trade. Choosing the right mode of transport is essential to ensure your import or export operation is efficient and cost-effective. There are four ways of importing and exporting from overseas – road, rail, air and sea. When making your choices, you will also need to decide whether to handle logistics by yourself, or outsource the work to a freight forwarder. This guide examines each mode of transport and provides an overview of the issues you must address.
It covers how to deal with customs, identifies which regulations must be complied with and how to manage a freight forwarder. This guide explains the basics of international trade and distribution. For more detailed information see our sections on transporting your goods and preparing goods for transport. Using road transport for international trade Road transport can be the most flexible option for your international business, especially within the European Union. The motorway network is good and crossing national borders is usually quick and efficient.
Other advantages: relatively low cost extensive road networks – scheduled delivery days and next day delivery services are a viable option you can schedule transport to suit you and you can track the location of goods consignments can be secure and private But you should be aware of the following issues: it can take time to travel long distances overland delays can be caused by traffic and vehicles are subject to breakdown problems there is the risk of goods being damaged if vehicles are not driven carefully toll charges are high in some countries omplying with road and traffic regulations in some countries You can either use your own vehicles, or a carrier. If you operate your own vehicles, you will need to consider licences, fuel costs, regulations, driver training and tax. There are various types of carrier, including: Couriers – specialise in the speedy and secure delivery of small goods and packages. Find a courier service in your area on the Locateacourier website – Opens in a new window. Hauliers – will collect goods from your premises and deliver them by road.
Freight forwarders – consolidate shipments and have a detailed knowledge of the rules and regulations that your business must comply with. See the page in this guide on choosing and managing a freight forwarder and see our guide on using brokers and forwarders. Goods-in-transit insurance can protect you if goods are lost or damaged when transported. Road haulage falls under the Convention des Marchandises Routiers (CMR) which sets out conditions for transporting goods by road. This gives basic cover, but it’s advisable to take out extra insurance.
See our guides on insurance for international trade and transport insurance. The rules on the international transport of dangerous goods by road are subject to international legislation, in particular the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods must hold an ADR training certificate in handling dangerous goods. Using sea transport for international trade If your business needs to transport large quantities but there is no pressure to deliver quickly, shipping by sea may be suitable.
Other advantages include: you can ship large volumes at low costs – a freight forwarder can consolidate consignments to reduce costs you can use containers for multi-modal solutions – eg using road or rail for onward delivery However, you should consider the following issues: shipping containers by sea can be slow when compared with other transport modes and bad weather can hamper delivery schedules routes and timetables are usually inflexible it’s difficult to track the exact location of goods in transit you have to pay port duties and taxes our goods will require inland transportation to their final destination basic freight rates are subject to fuel and currency surcharges Protect your consignments with insurance. Under the maritime transport conventions you automatically have limited insurance cover under the Hague-Visby and Hamburg rules. However, it’s advisable to get additional insurance, such as general cargo insurance. Documents All your consignments must be accompanied by either a Bill of Lading or Sea Waybill. These documents clearly set out who the consignment owner is and the terms of the contract of carriage.
When exporting to a new customer, use a Bill of Lading. This allows you to retain ownership of the goods until you release them to your customer. It is risky to release the goods before full payment is made unless you know your customer’s creditworthiness. Bills of Lading give you documentary security and more control over your consignments. Sea Waybills are less costly but do not offer the same security of payment. You should only use them when you know the creditworthiness of the business you’re shipping to, or when you have built up a good relationship with them.
See our guide on getting paid when selling overseas. If you ship dangerous goods, you must complete a dangerous goods declaration which includes the Dangerous Goods Note. In most cases this will be in addition to the maritime transport document that should accompany your shipments. Using rail transport for international trade Rail transport is a cost-effective and efficient way to move your goods. It offers you the following advantages: fast rail links throughout Europe safety and security it is environmentally friendly compared with other transport modes However, you should consider the following issues: ou will be dependent on the routes and timetables available – these may be limited in remote regions rail transport can be more expensive than road mechanical failure or industrial action can disrupt services you may need to consider onward transport from a rail depot to the final destination, which will add to costs and affect delivery schedules Insurance and documentation If you transport goods by rail, you should be aware of the Convention Concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF).
This sets out measures adopted to reduce rail transport costs and the rules that apply to international transport of goods by rail. Read about how COTIF affects your business on the Department for Transport (DfT) website – Opens in a new window. You should also be aware of the CIM consignment note that sets the conditions for transporting non-dangerous goods by rail. CIM rules mean that your carrier only takes responsibility for insuring your consignments against loss or damage from the time they take possession of them until they are delivered.
If you transport dangerous goods that have a UN dangerous goods code, or that your carrier considers to be dangerous, you must complete a dangerous goods declaration. Part of this declaration is the Dangerous Goods Note. If you transport dangerous goods by rail, you must also follow the international rules for transporting dangerous goods. Find out about the international agreements for the transportation of dangerous goods on the Health ; Safety Executive website – Opens in a new window. Also see our guide on moving dangerous goods.
Specialised advice can be obtained from your legal adviser or freight forwarder. Using air transport for international trade Air transport offers numerous advantages for international trade, depending on your requirements. It can: deliver items quickly over long distances give you high levels of security for sensitive items be used for a range of goods However, you should consider the following issues: air transport can involve higher costs than other options, and is not suitable for all goods flights are subject to delay or cancellation you will need to pay taxes at each airport you use uel and currency surcharges will usually be added to freight costs you will need to consider onward transport from the destination airport to the consignee Make sure that the routes and timetables available for air freight suit your requirements. Insurance General cargo insurance is available in three levels – clause A, B or C. Air transport can also use the Institute Cargo Clauses (Air). The level of the insurance type is reflected in the premiums that must be paid. You should try and match the level of your insurance to the potential risk that your consignment is put under. Consult a broker or freight forwarder for advice.
Download a guide on cargo insurance from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window and see our guide on insurance for international trade. Documents and regulations The Air Waybill sets out the contract between your business and the carrier you’re using. A new project called e-freight aims to remove all paperwork from air cargo transportation by 2010. Find out about the e-freight scheme on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website – Opens in a new window. Warehousing and international trade When moving your goods in and out of the UK, you may need some form of customs warehousing.
This can give your business the following advantages: it can enable you to delay the payment of import duty and VAT on imported goods, which can help with your long-term cashflow planning if you will be re-exporting to a non-European Union country, storing your goods in a customs warehouse usually means you don’t have to pay customs duty or VAT if you don’t have the correct licences in place for imported goods, storing the goods in a customs warehouse can give you time to remedy this There are two types of customs warehouse. Private warehouses – known as type C, D and E – are for the storage of goods by an individual trader.
A public warehouse (type A) is authorised for use by a warehouse-keeper who will accept your goods but takes no responsibility for them. Find out which type of warehouse is best for your business on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website – Opens in a new window. You can store most types of goods in a customs warehouse, except meat, meat products and any goods requiring a veterinary check. If you store pre-financed agricultural goods – goods that are intended for export in an unaltered state – there may be a time limit on storing your goods. Read about pre-financed agricultural goods on the HMRC website – Opens in a new window.
You must keep accurate records, including: receipts showing the goods have come into the warehouse the stockholding of the warehouse, showing exactly what is stored there documentary evidence showing the handling and removal of goods Stock records must be kept at type A, C and D warehouses. Records for type E should be kept at your head office. If using computerised records, contact HMRC to ensure your systems are compatible. Your stock records must be kept for four years after the removal of the goods they relate to. Choosing and managing a freight forwarder
If you are planning import or export operations, and would prefer not to manage the logistics by yourself, you can engage a freight forwarder. Freight forwarders offer a wide range of expertise and services including: consolidating smaller shipments to save you time and money detailed knowledge of the rules and regulations that your business must comply with acting as an intermediary when transporting to a new territory arranging and operating multi-modal transport systems – using several different transport methods for a shipment as required Selecting and managing a freight forwarder
You need to make sure you choose a freight forwarder who suits your needs. Questions to consider include: Are they a member of the British International Freight Association (BIFA)? BIFA members are covered by freight liability insurance and follow standard trading conditions and best-practice procedures. Do they have experience transporting your type of goods? Are they experienced in shipping to the countries you are targeting? Depending on your needs, you may need to find out whether they have experience of shipping outside the European Union. If you need a multi-modal solution, can they handle this?
For a successful partnership, you need to make sure your respective responsibilities are clearly understood and set down. The use of Incoterms, an internationally accepted system of trading terms for the delivery of goods, is recommended to avoid any ambiguity. Labelling and documents for international transport Whatever international transportation you use, there are common documents that you may need to complete: The Single Administrative Document for goods imported from outside the European Union (EU). Get guidance on exporting goods from the UK on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window.
The Standard Shipping Note (SSN) to help port authorities process your consignments. Download an SSN completion guide from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. If the goods are dangerous, as defined by the UN Hazard code, they must be accompanied by a dangerous goods declaration – the Dangerous Goods Note. If using a freight forwarder or carrier, you should complete an Export Cargo Shipping Instruction (ECSI). Download an ECSI completion guide from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Shipping to EU and non-EU countries
There are a number of systems in use across Europe designed to help you transport your goods. These include the New Computerised Transit System and the TIR transit procedure. Find out about the new customs transit systems on the Europa website – Opens in a new window and see our guide on trading in the European Union. Labelling You need to use correct labelling and shipping marks to ensure smooth processing of your goods. The consignment itself must be labelled with its destination. If your goods are being consolidated, ensure that your own consignment is individually labelled as it will be shipped along with other business’ goods.
Download a guide to shipping container labelling from the Book Industry Study Group website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Tax and VAT Local taxes and tariffs may have to be paid when transporting your goods internationally. You should also assess your VAT liability. VAT relief can sometimes be claimed when goods move between EU member states and to countries outside of the European Community. Consult your freight forwarder or local tax office for details. See our guide: international trade VAT: the basics. Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status
If you trade within the European Union as part of an international supply chain and are actively involved in customs operations you can apply for AEO status. The AEO certificate is an internationally recognised quality mark. It tells people that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant, and that you can be considered a secure and reliable trading partner in the supply chain. AEOs may benefit from simplifications provided for under the custom rules, or from facilitations of customs controls relating to security and safety. Read about AEO status in our guide on Authorised Economic Operators.
Using brokers and forwarders Introduction The freight forwarding industry can provide a range of key services to traders, taking over on your behalf many of the responsibilities involved in transporting your goods around the world as quickly, securely and affordably as possible. As well as arranging the transport of your goods – whether by air, sea, rail or road – freight forwarders frequently provide other services in areas such as customs clearance, export documentation and insurance. They often offer distribution, warehousing, packaging and other supply-chain services.
Most forwarders will take over specific parts of the process for you, and can often offer control of the entire transport process. Many transport and logistics operators also offer freight-forwarding services. This guide outlines the ways in which freight forwarders can help traders. It explains the roles of forwarders, customs agents and brokers and lists the key considerations when looking to hire a freight forwarder. What a freight forwarder can do for you The role of a freight forwarder is to help importers and exporters transport their goods.
This page explains the responsibilities and services of forwarders and how they can help international traders. The freight forwarder’s core responsibilities Most freight forwarders are likely to specialise in particular service areas, modes of transport or markets. Freight forwarders are often seen as the travel agents of international trading. If you have a consignment of goods you need to move from country A to country B, a forwarder will identify and book the best routes, modes of transport and specific carriers for you dependent on your requirements. Many transport and logistics operators also ffer freight-forwarding services. Using a forwarder can cut your costs. Because they arrange for the transport of huge numbers of consignments, they can consolidate loads going to a single destination to keep freight charges down for individual traders. However, as with most business transactions, you should compare prices from a range of suppliers to find the best level of cost and service for you. For information about deciding whether to use a freight forwarder, see the page in this guide on how to arrange your own transport or use a freight forwarder.
Other services freight forwarders provide Freight forwarders typically offer a wide range of secondary trade-related services as well as their core transport ones. These include: customs clearance – forwarders can complete customs paperwork on your behalf, and pay any taxes or duties owed other documentation issues – eg Bills of Lading, or any documents required by banks before payment is released insurance – many forwarders will be able to supply insurance services inventory management ogistics and supply-chain management of value-added activities Bear in mind that you’ll also be able to use your forwarder as a valuable source of information and advice about the international trading process. This can be particularly useful for businesses that are new to international trade. For example, you can ask a forwarder as part of your contract to help you ensure your goods are properly packaged and labelled for export. Freight forwarders and customs agents and brokers For many traders, the most important category of trade-related service providers is freight forwarding.
In addition to arranging transport for your goods, freight forwarders also offer a range of other services – from customs clearance and trade documentation to insurance and supply-chain management. While many forwarders offer a range of services, customs agents and customs brokers provide a different service. This page explains what each type of service provider does and how they can help traders. See the page in this guide on what a freight forwarder can do for you. Customs agents and customs brokers fulfil similar roles to each other and the terms re often used interchangeably. While a freight forwarder will arrange for your goods to be transported from one country to another and typically provide other services as well (such as customs clearance), customs agents and brokers make sure that your goods can be cleared through customs en route to the final place of delivery in the UK. Agents and brokers in the UK usually operate as direct representatives, but they can also act as indirect representatives. A direct representative acts in your name and can’t be held liable for your customs debt.
An indirect representative acts in their own name but on your behalf. They can be held liable for your customs debt. Most freight forwarders also offer customs-clearance services. However, you should note that in some countries outside the UK customs broking is a licensed profession. This means you’ll be limited in the range of people you can appoint to clear your goods through customs for you. However, when most consignments arrive at their final port/airport of destination, they are customs cleared by the importer in conjunction with their locally appointed customs broker.
Whether you decide to use a freight forwarder or a customs broker or agent, make sure that you provide them with full and accurate information. The key things to provide are a copy of the commercial invoice and the tariff classification code for your goods (unless you’ve asked them to classify the goods for you). Arrange your own transport or use a freight transporter This page explains the factors you need to consider when deciding whether or not to outsource your transporting needs to a freight forwarder.
The factors you should consider when deciding if you should use a freight forwarder include: the scale or complexity of your transport needs – the more complicated your requirements, the more likely you are to benefit from using a specialist service whether you have the expertise or experience to arrange transport yourself – remember you also have to consider technical requirements such as customs clearance procedures whether you have the time and expertise to manage the process yourself cost – freight forwarders may be able to offer lower freight rates than you can negotiate with carriers, but you should be clear about all fees and surcharges you’ll be liable for and about the level of service you’ll receive the possible convenience of using a freight forwarder to handle most or all of your trade-related services rather than having to manage multiple service providers As with most business decisions, it’s a matter of weighing up the costs and benefits. There is no simple answer. The cost-benefit equation will differ from business to business, and possibly also from transaction to transaction.
For information about the factors that influence the cost of moving your goods, see the page in this guide on the costs of using a freight forwarder. Bear in mind that you may be able to gain valuable advice from your freight forwarder. In the same way that accountants are often a useful source of general business advice, working with a freight forwarder can be a good way of learning about international trade. Finding and choosing a freight forwarder As with all aspects of international trade, it pays to do your research before choosing a freight forwarder to look after the transportation of your goods. Draw up a shortlist of at least three and compare them before selecting one. This page explains how to find and choose the right level of service for you. How to find freight forwarders
There are many bodies that can help you search for freight forwarders, including: experienced exporters – preferably those in your sector, whose freight needs are likely to be similar to yours your trade association – it should be very familiar with the freight needs of businesses in your sector freight-forwarding trade associations – particularly the British International Freight Association (BIFA) for UK freight forwarders and the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) for those overseas Bear in mind that while there’s a relatively small number of major global freight-forwarding companies, there are thousands of smaller specialist operators. How to choose a freight forwarder The most important factor in choosing your shortlist of freight forwarders should be their experience with the routes and goods your business deals with. For example, if you transport goods that need refrigerated containers, ask for references from businesses with similar needs.
Other things you should find out about your shortlisted candidates include: which ancillary services they can provide, and how they charge for them how long they’ve been running and how well established they are – ask for references how willing they are to explain the process to you as it unfolds – this can be a valuable learning opportunity if you’re new to international trading the overall cost for their services – see the page within this guide on the costs of using a freight forwarder The costs of using a freight forwarder It’s not possible to give a precise indication of costs, but this page outlines some of the main influences of the costs of using a freight forwarder. Basic determinants of cost The five main factors that influence cost are: ode of transport, eg airfreight can be significantly more expensive than transit by road, rail or ship distance/destination – the farther your goods have to travel, or the more unusual the destination, the higher costs are likely to be weight and volume – charges are usually based on the weight of goods, but calculation switches to volume above a certain threshold (one cubic metre per tonne for shipping, three for road, and six for air) value – in some instances, such as earthenware and woollen textiles, charges are calculated on the basis of goods’ value per tonne the type of contract you have with the freight forwarder – while most forwarders usually charge per shipment, some will agree an annual service contract, so you should weigh up the costs and benefits of each type Extras for which there will be charges Loads that require special handling of any sort will usually attract an extra charge.
This covers goods such as: dangerous goods perishable goods and live animals outsize goods that don’t fit in standard containers other irregular goods, eg a load that can’t have anything stacked on top of it, or goods that require a special crane for loading However, extra charges depend on your contract. Freight forwarders and carriers sometimes add an additional fee for handling these types of products. Always ensure that you get a full quotation from your freight forwarder and understand exactly what you are and what you are not paying for. Security Some dangerous goods travelling by road, normally moving in large quantities, may be subject to legislation.
Read guidance for businesses on transport security for dangerous goods on the Department for Transport (DfT) website – Opens in a new window. Ancillary charges Bear in mind that asking your freight forwarder to provide secondary services – such as arranging customs clearance or insurance cover – will obviously lead to higher charges. For information about secondary services, see the page in this guide on what a freight forwarder can do for you Freight trade associations This page offers sources of help and advice for traders and gives details of the two main trade associations you may need when dealing with freight forwarders, customs agents or brokers. The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is a membership body representing 1,200 UK freight-services companies.
You can contact the BIFA Enquiry Line on Tel 020 8844 2266, or you can read freight services industry guidance on the BIFA website – Opens in a new window. You can also find a member of BIFA near you on the BIFA website – Opens in a new window. The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) is a global trade association for freight-services providers. BIFA is a member of FIATA, as are similar national associations from 150 countries. Read an overview of freight forwarding on the FIATA website – Opens in a new window. You can contact Switzerland-based FIATA on Tel +41 43 211 65 00. How trade associations can help resolve problems
When trading internationally, it makes sense to use freight forwarders and other service providers that are members of trade bodies such as BIFA and FIATA. These organisations have codes of practice with which members must comply, so there should be less chance of problems arising. A further benefit is that in instances where problems do arise, BIFA and FIATA can be called on to help ensure that disputes between freight forwarders and their clients are quickly resolved. Moving goods by sea Introduction This guide explains how to use ocean shipping to transport your goods. It shows how the international shipping system works and gives you the information you need to choose the shipping option that’s right for you.
This guide also outlines the different vessels used for international shipping. It highlights the main factors affecting ocean freight costs and provides an overview of the key documents you’ll need to transport goods by sea. Find out more about moving your goods in our sections on preparing goods for transport and transporting your goods. The different types of ocean shipping Many different types of ship are used to transport goods around the world. The differences between them reflect the varied needs of international traders. In particular, different types of ship are used to carry different types of cargo, or to carry cargo in varied ways. The different types of ship are summarised below:
Container ships (or “box ships”) carry their cargo packed into standard 20’/40′ containers that are stacked both on and below deck. Smaller “feeder” ships carry containers on coastal and inland waters. Roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) carriers carry both road haulage and passenger vehicles. For more information about road haulage, see our guide on moving goods by road. General cargo ships carry loose-packaged cargo of all types. Bulk carriers carry unpackaged goods – usually large volumes of single-commodity goods such as grain, coal, fertilizers and ore. Tankers carry liquids (such as oil and gas) in bulk. Merchant ships primarily do business in two different ways: Liner vessels operate on fixed routes, to fixed schedules and usually with a standard tariff.
Liner trades are dominated by container ships, roll-on/roll-off carriers and general cargo ships. Charter (“tramp”) vessels operate entirely according to the demands of the person chartering them. Their ports of loading and discharge are set by the charter, as is their cost, which depends on immediate supply and demand conditions. Most tankers and bulk carriers operate in the charter markets. How goods are carried on ships There are three main ways in which goods are transported on ships. These affect how different ships are built. For more information, see the page in this guide on the different types of ocean shipping. In containers The use of containers now dominates commercial international shipping.
The advantages of packing goods into containers include: the ease of intermodal transit, ie containers can be unloaded from the ship and transferred directly to a road or rail vehicle opportunity to offer consumers a door-to-door service speed and efficiency of loading and unloading security of goods during transit There are more than 20 internationally recognised types of container, including refrigerated units and open-topped containers, but there are two basic sizes. Their dimensions in metric terms are: 20ft: 589cm (l) x 235cm (w) x 239cm (h) – volume 33. 2 cubic metres 40ft: 1,203cm (l) x 235cm (w) x 239cm (h) – volume 67. 7 cubic metres The largest container ships can accommodate more than 9,000 20ft containers. As break-bulk
Break-bulk refers to any non-bulk cargo that isn’t containerised (such as goods on pallets, or in crates or drums or sacks), which is loaded directly into a ship’s hold. Break-bulk tends to be used for specialised trades (such as fresh fruit), or for trade to small ports that do not have the necessary infrastructure to handle containerised traffic. Goods carried as break-bulk can be more susceptible to damage than containerised goods because they are stowed loose in a ship’s hold. So strong packaging is essential, as is dunnage (loose packing material), which is placed around the cargo to protect it from damage during transit. For more information, see our guide on labelling and packaging your goods for export. In bulk
Large shipments of certain commodities – such as coal, ore, wheat or oil – are typically carried in bulk, unpackaged in the ship’s hold. The main international shipping routes Shipping routes reflect world trade flows. Sailings are most numerous and most frequent on routes where trade volumes are largest and demand is therefore greatest. In liner trades to and from the UK, the busiest routes are to the Far East (especially China and Japan), passing through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal and the Malacca Straits. The North Atlantic route, linking Western Europe and the USA and Canada, is also busy, and there are well-established routes to the Middle East, India, Australia and New Zealand, Central and South America, as well as to East and West Africa.
There are direct liner services from the UK to most other countries, and certainly to all the main trading economies. However, if your cargo is destined for a smaller port in one of these countries or for a port in a country with little trade with the UK, there may not be a direct sailing available – in which case, your cargo will need to be transhipped to another local sailing at the end of the ocean voyage. In bulk trades routes reflect the places of origin and consumption of the commodities carried. For example, many of the main oil routes begin in the Middle East and end in developed countries where demand for oil is greatest. There will usually be a range of routes by which your cargo can reach its destination.
It’s worth exploring all the options available to find the one that best suits your needs in terms of price, speed, safety and contractual stipulations. This can be done by directly contacting those shipping companies that advertise sailings to your destination or by engaging freight forwarders to make arrangements for you. See our guide on using brokers and forwarders. The costs of ocean shipping A range of factors can influence the cost of transporting a consignment of goods by sea. There are two main elements: the ocean freight charged by the carrier, and costs associated with handling and clearing the goods at the ports of loading and discharge.
A number of factors can influence how these charges are calculated: for liner traffic, freight is usually charged according to the shipping company’s standard tariff, although larger or frequent shippers and freight forwarders may be able to negotiate preferential shipping rates charter rates for other vessels depend on supply and demand conditions prevailing at the time when the charter is negotiated However, there are many other factors that can impact on the final price, including: different rates for specific goods and general cargo congestion charges at busy ports currency adjustment factor (CAF), to take account of exchange rate changes during the journey – shipping costs are usually calculated and quoted in US dollars bunker adjustment factor (BAF), to take account of fuel price fluctuation surcharges (like a security surcharge) levied by ports and/or by the shipping company to cover the costs of particular regulatory regimes Another factor that affects the cost of shipping containerised cargo is whether or not you have a full container load (FCL) to transport.
Shipping companies’ tariffs are based on flat per-container rates, so it is clearly most economical to ship your goods in containers that are full. If you have a less-than-container-load (LCL) consignment, it may be worth consolidating your cargo with that of other traders, so you’ll only pay for the weight or volume (whichever is greater) of your own goods. Working out the most cost-effective way to ship your goods around the world can be a complicated task. As with most services, you can research the options yourself or pay a third party (such as a freight forwarder) to handle these issues for you, finding transport modes and routes that suit your needs.
For more information, see our guide on using brokers and forwarders. Key documents for transporting goods by sea As with most aspects of international trade, using ocean shipping to transport your goods involves the completion of a wide range of documents. The list below is not comprehensive – for more information, see our guide on exports and dispatching procedures. You will need an Export Cargo Shipping Instruction. This is the document by which you provide the shipping company with details of your goods and set out your instructions for the shipment. It follows up on the initial booking, when space will have been confirmed on particular sailings.
The process is often concluded by telephone. You will also need one of the following: If the goods are hazardous, a Dangerous Goods Note (DGN). This document details the nature of any dangerous goods in a consignment and the hazards presented by them. If the goods are non-hazardous, a Standard Shipping Note (SSN). This gives the port of loading the information it needs to handle your goods correctly. It’s also used by the shipping company to check the actual information about the goods once they have been loaded into the container with the predicted information supplied beforehand. In addition, you will also need one of the following: A Bill of Lading.
Issued by the carrier, this serves three purposes – it shows that the carrier has received the goods, provides evidence of a contract of carriage, and serves as a document of title to the goods. This is a unique historical document – several of its features date from the age of sail, and it’s not always appropriate in the 21st century. A Sea Waybill. This fulfils the same practical functions as the bill of lading, but does not confer title to the goods and is therefore quicker and easier to use. It’s often used where there’s a well-established trading relationship between buyer and seller or in transactions where ownership doesn’t change hands, eg between divisions of a single company. Cargo insurance for goods at sea
As with any commercial transactions, there are risks associated with trading internationally and it’s important to arrange appropriate insurance cover. See our guide on transport insurance. You’re likely to see the phrase “marine insurance”. This doesn’t only apply to ocean shipping – it also covers transport by road, rail and air. In order for insurance cover to be valid, you have to be able to show that you have an “insurable interest” in the insured goods. This means showing that the goods are yours and that you bear the risks associated with them. Shipping companies’ liability for the cargo they carry is set by various international conventions and does not always equate to the full value of the goods.
The level of protection this offers varies from market to market, so you should check what the position is. Contracts of sale and insurance The main risks that arise in international trade are loss, damage and delay (including detention at customs). How these risks are shared between buyers and sellers should be covered in the contract of sale (not the contract of carriage), using Incoterms. Incoterms are a standard set of trading terms that indicate precisely when responsibility for costs and risks shifts from seller to buyer. This affects your insurance, because the more costs you’re responsible for, the greater the insurance cover you’ll need.
For example: In an ex-works (EXW) transaction, the seller is considered to have delivered the goods once they’ve been made available for collection at the factory or warehouse. From that point on, risk passes to the buyer, so the buyer should insure the journey from that point. With a delivered-duty-paid (DDP) sale, the risk only passes to the buyer once the goods have arrived at their place of destination and have been cleared for import. In this case, the seller should insure the journey up to that point. There is no obligation under DDP for either buyer or seller to contract for insurance. Only two terms in Incoterms – CIF and CIP – require insurance to be contracted – in both cases it is the seller’s obligation.
It is recommended under DDP (and any other of the ten remaining terms) that buyer and seller agree who will be responsible for effecting the insurance contract as part of the delivery or sales contract. For more information, see our guide on international commercial contracts – Incoterms, but be aware that Incoterms are terms for contracts of sale and they do not apply to contracts of carriage. Traders often tend to under-insure themselves, so it’s recommended that you add 10 per cent to the amount of cover you think you need. You can also arrange cover for contingencies, eg the buyer refusing to accept your goods when they arrive. Moving goods by air Introduction
The airfreight industry consists of a number of interdependent commercial organisations, including airlines, express carriers, freight forwarders and customs brokers. Over two million tonnes of commercial airfreight passes through UK airports each year. This is forecast to rise to five million by 2010 (source: Department for Transport). This guide provides some basic information about how the airfreight industry operates, and outlines the requirements and regulations that you – as an importer or exporter – must comply with. Included are notes on customs regulations, packaging, insurance, aviation security screening, freight rate and surcharge costs. The guide also explains what paperwork should accompany your shipments.
After reading this you’ll be in a better position to decide if airfreight is an appropriate mode of transport for your business. Airfreight rates It is perhaps not surprising that airfreight is generally more expensive than other modes of international transport. However, the upside is that door-to-door transit times can be minimised and, where consignment sizes are small, it is frequently more cost-effective than other modes. Airlines offer different freight rates so, in conjunction with guidance provided by your freight forwarder, you can choose which cost, route, service levels and particular airline options best suit your business needs. The basic cost of airfreight
Airfreight is charged per kilogram – weight or volume, whichever is the greater – known as the chargeable weight. Normally, the higher the chargeable weight, the lower the freight rate. Usually, airfreight is carried by scheduled passenger aircraft as well as by cargo-only airlines. The air cargo market has undergone a lot of deregulation over recent years. As a result, freight rates aren’t marketed in a single airline industry tariff. Forwarders tend to negotiate rates with airlines on an individual basis. Unless otherwise requested, rates only apply for movements from the airport of origin to the airport of destination. Pre-departure and post-arrival expenses are additional to the airfreight cost. Other additional expenses
In addition to the freight costs quoted by your freight forwarder, you have to consider other expenses. For export goods, these typically include airline terminal handling fees, fuel and risk surcharges, including obligatory customs data-entry requirements, and physical consignment security screening. For import goods, you need to consider duty and VAT. All of these fees are additional to the forwarder’s or broker’s service fees. As with any other transport mode, it’s essential to ensure that you receive a written quotation from your forwarder and that you fully understand which services you’re paying for and what isn’t included in the price. The role of the airline
The vast majority of international air cargo is carried to its destination in the holds of passenger aircraft. The amount of cargo uplifted on any aircraft is subject to the passenger and baggage load, the type of aircraft itself and the distance of the flight sector involved. Airlines accept airfreight limited to an airport-to-airport contract in accordance with the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions. These define the legal, contractual and liability (for loss and damage) obligations of the airlines as well as those of the shipper. Once cargo is pre-processed – known as being ready for carriage – by the freight forwarder, it’s delivered to the airline’s cargo terminal at the airport of departure.
The cargo terminal operator’s primary responsibility is to the airline – ensuring that all cargo for a given flight is transported to the aircraft’s side at the appropriate time, ready for loading. With few exceptions, the airline’s cargo terminal operations are sub-contracted out to third-party operators contracted to the airline(s). The airlines themselves pre-plan their fuel, passenger, baggage and cargo loadings well in advance of departure. In the event of last-minute, unforeseen circumstances, cargo is sometimes offloaded and held for a later flight. Although airlines do allocate flight details in advance for cargo movements, under their Conditions of Carriage they can’t be bound to them and held responsible for delays in consignments arriving at their destination. Airfreight logistics
Buying airfreight and organising other requirements can be a complex process. If you prefer not to organise an airfreight shipment yourself, you can use a freight forwarder. Usually, the most economical way of shipping small- to medium-sized consignments is through a consolidation service. Freight forwarders buy and pre-book airline capacity in bulk, in advance, and sell this to exporters who want to ship consignments to the same airport of destination on the same day. Make sure you know in advance the type of services you want, and choose a freight forwarder who suits your needs. To help you choose, ask the following questions: Are they experienced in transporting your type of goods?
Are they experienced in shipping to the countries you’re targeting? Are they a member of a freight service industry body? Often members of such bodies are covered by limited liability insurance and apply standard trading conditions and best-practice procedures while non-members may not. If applicable, are they confident using several different transport methods for a shipment? For more information on forwarders, see our guide on using brokers and forwarders. International courier and express parcel delivery services Courier and express operators usually offer a complete door-to-door pick-up and delivery service at an all-inclusive price, excluding duties and taxes applicable in the country of destination.
Although some operators have expanded their portfolio and are now offering similar services for larger consignments, eg 30 kilograms or more, they mostly market their services for smaller consignments. In recent years, international airlines have recognised the need for such services, developing similar door-to-door-type products that are available through freight forwarders. Exporters should make enquiries and, based on service requirements, cost, and the type and weight of product being exported, decide which of these options suits their needs. See the page in this guide on airfreight rates. Perishable goods Airfreight is often used to transport perishable items, eg food.
Download information on transporting food safely from the Food Standards Agency website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Advice on packaging Because goods are being air freighted, this doesn’t mean they will be protected from the rigours of various handling processes that happen en route. It has been estimated that a package can be loaded/re-loaded/stowed up to 60 times during a typical international transit, so good quality packaging is essential. When planning to package your goods, you might want to consider the following: Will your product withstand damage if other, heavier packages are stacked on top of yours en route? Make sure that your outer packaging is appropriate, strong and secure.
Stabilise your goods within the packaging – use a filling material, such as expanded polystyrene beads or bubble wrap. Try to gather your smaller shipments into a larger package/case/pallet to reduce stress on individual consignments and avoid small packages getting lost in transit. Check that your destination country hasn’t banned the use of certain packaging materials – eg many countries require packaging made from wood products to be treated for infestation and marked to this effect. Security for airfreight If you’re exporting consignments by airfreight, your forwarder or small-parcels operator will need to conform with government-regulated security requirements.
The current security measures in the UK are regulated by the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990. This means that all airfreight consignments must either be screened or originate from a Department for Transport (DfT) accredited known consignor before being loaded onto an aircraft. To become a known shipper your business needs to be accredited by an inspector approved by the DfT. Once accredited, your consignments (subject to controls) can be treated as known cargo and not ordinarily subject to other security vetting before being loaded onto the aircraft. The known shipper regime isn’t mandatory. Alternatively, you can remain an unknown shipper.
Your cargo must be treated as unknown and will be screened either by a regulated agent (freight forwarder) or the airline in question before being loaded. View a list of regulated agents on the DfT website – Opens in a new window. You can also find information about changes to the regime and how to become a known consignor on the DfT website – Opens in a new window. The DfT issues a consignment security certificate to known consignors. Read a guide on aviation security training at the DfT website – Opens in a new window. Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status If you trade within the European Union as part of an international supply chain and are actively involved in customs operations you can apply for AEO status.
The AEO certificate is an internationally recognised quality mark which tells people that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant and that you can be considered a secure and reliable trading partner in the supply chain. AEOs may benefit from simplifications provided for under the customs rules, or from facilitations of customs controls relating to security and safety. Read about AEO status in our guide on Authorised Economic Operators. Airline and shipping companies established outside the European Community which benefit from related customs simplification procedures or hold an internationally recognised security or safety certificate may be considered as already meeting the corresponding criteria. Find out about the granting of AEO certificates to airlines and shipping companies on the HMRC website – Opens in a new window. Airfreight industry regulations
You can import and export the majority of products to and from the UK without a licence. However, certain goods are restricted, so you need to be aware of which industry regulations to comply with. Commonly sensitive products, such as armaments, drugs, products originating from endangered animal species and certain high-tech computer products, require a licence before they can be exported. You can read information about import licensing at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) website – Opens in a new window. You should also be aware of the Export Control Organisation (ECO). You can read about ECO on the BERR website – Opens in a new window.
Certain countries have specific regulations – eg if you import food into the USA, you must provide prior notification to the US Food and Drug Administration of each shipment of food. Dangerous goods If you intend to move dangerous goods by air, you must ensure that your goods are packaged, labelled and certificated in compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations is an offence under the Air Navigation Order 2005. Consignments of dangerous goods moving to or from an airport also need to comply with the regulations for the transport of dangerous goods by road. Airfreight documentation
For customs clearance and delivery at destination – and to fulfil HM Revenue & Customs requirements before export – freight forwarders should have a commercial invoice detailing the description, quantity and value of the goods being sold. This is attached to the air waybill and forwarded to the destination airport. Air waybills Blank air waybills are issued by individual airlines to freight forwarders appointed as agents by the airline. The completed air waybill acts as a document of carriage. It provides evidence of a contract for carriage between exporter and airline, and proof of receipt by the airline of goods for shipment. It also acts as a freight bill. When suitably endorsed, the air waybill can provide acceptable documentary proof that the goods have been exported.
Unlike the ocean Bill of Lading, the air waybill isn’t, when in your possession, a document of title to the goods. Nevertheless, it can be significant when used alongside, for example, an international Letter of Credit (LoC). Often the original copy is used as proof that goods covered by the LoC have been transported under its terms. See the page within this guide on airfreight insurance. The air waybill sets out the contract between you, your agent and the airline. Other paperwork You also need to be aware of the following: Standard Shipping Note (SSN) – find out how to complete the SSN on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window Single Administrative Document (SAD) or form C88
Export Cargo Shipping Instruction (ECSI) – applicable if you’re using a freight forwarder or carrier Certificate of Origin – may be required for certain types of imports Selling terms When goods are sold, the seller and buyer should agree on who will cover airfreight transportation and other costs incurred in the overall movement. Incoterms (internationally recognised terms) are a set of rules for interpreting the most commonly used international trade terms. See our guide on International Commercial Contracts – Incoterms. It’s important to be aware of the paperwork needed for airfreight shipments so you comply with all relevant formalities. Consult your freight forwarder for specific advice. Airfreight insurance
Airlines, freight forwarders and other supply-chain parties operate under limited liability conditions. This means you’re unlikely to receive compensation equal to the actual value of your goods if they’re lost or damaged. The full replacement value for consignments and any applicable freight costs should therefore be protected by adequate insurance cover. However, insurance cover doesn’t normally extend to protecting consequential loss. An example of this is where a consignment is delayed en route so that, on arrival at the destination, a financial loss is incurred due to the delay. Check with insurers before goods are shipped to see if you need this type of cover.
Make sure your consignments are adequately insured. Consider if they are subject to risks and choose insurance to cover these. It’s advisable to consult a broker or freight forwarder for guidance. Unlike other modes of transport, airfreight insurance is with the freight forwarder, not the carrier. Download information on cargo insurance from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. The level of insurance type is reflected in the premiums you pay. Try to match the level of insurance to the potential risk factors of your consignment. Consult a broker or freight forwarder for advice – see our guide on transport insurance. Insurance Mediation Directive
Since 2005 the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has regulated businesses and brokers – including freight forwarders – providing insurance brokerage services. It does this through the Insurance Mediation Directive. Not all freight forwarders are FSA registered so may be unable to provide insurance services. The Warsaw and Montreal Conventions These conventions govern the international carriage of goods by air. They cover: the carrier’s responsibilities basis of carrier liability financial liability limits carrier’s responsibility for sub-contractors documentary requirements consignor’s liabilities special provision regarding dangerous goods claim time limits and limitation periods
Download an overview of the Warsaw Convention from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Conventions apply to the issuing of the air waybill (the legal evidence of your contract agreement with the airline). Under the Convention you or your agent must complete an air waybill for each airfreight shipment. Moving goods by road Introduction Aimed at importers and exporters, this guide outlines the different kinds of road vehicles used for transporting goods. It highlights the key documents you need to be familiar with and provides an overview of insurance and licensing requirements. Find out more about moving your goods in our sections on preparing goods for transport and transporting your goods. The different road haulage vehicles
In the UK, with some exceptions, the maximum vehicle weight is 44 tonnes (t) gross (truck, fuel and load) and has up to six sets of axles. Most foreign vehicles coming to the UK have two axles on the tractor and three on the trailer, which limits them to a weight of 40t both here and in their home state. The maximum individual truck length is 12 metres (m), articulated truck and trailer length is 16. 5m and road trains are allowed up to 18. 75m. The maximum width for all is 2. 55m. The main vehicles used to transport goods by road are Articulated Lorries (Artics). These consist of a prime mover with no significant load-carrying area, but with a turn-table device which can be linked to a trailer.
With or without a trailer, the Gross Combination Mass – the combined prime mover and trailer – must exceed 3. 5t. Artics have different types of trailers, including: Flatbed trailer – used for almost any kind of cargo, but goods need to be protected from the elements and theft. Tilt trailer – like a flatbed trailer, but with a removable PVC canopy. Curtain-sider – the mainstay of road haulage, this has a rigid roof and rear doors. The sides are PVC curtains that can be drawn back for easy loading. Box trailer – an entirely rigid unit, with loading through back doors. A secure option for valuable goods. Road train – a rigid vehicle at the front, which pulls a trailer behind it.
Swap-body system – built to accommodate standard cargo containers. Allows containers to be swiftly transferred during intermodal transport. Low-loaders – often used for transporting heavy machinery and other outsize goods. Set low to the ground for easy loading. Vans are frequently used to transport smaller cargoes shorter distances. While goods are being transported, drivers are responsible for the security of goods and compliance with weight and similar restrictions. Traders are responsible for providing adequate dunnage (protective wrapping) to protect and stabilise the goods and for any damage caused to the vehicle while being loaded if they are the party actually loading the vehicle.
The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) Programme will oblige fuel suppliers to make sure that a certain percentage of their sales is made up of biofuels. Read about RTFO on the Department for Transport (DfT) website – Opens in a new window. The CMR note: the key road transport document This page explains how the standard contract of carriage for goods being transported internationally by road – the CMR note – works, and how to fulfil your responsibilities in completing it. What the CMR note is The CMR note is a consignment note that confirms that the carrier (ie the road haulage company) has received the goods and that a contract of carriage exists between the trader and the carrier.
Unlike a bill of lading, a CMR is not a document of title nor a declaration, although some states regard it as such. It does not necessarily give its holder and/or the carrier rights of ownership or possession of the goods. How to complete the CMR note You can fill in the CMR yourself, or you can have a freight forwarder or the carrier do it for you. However, you remain responsible for the accuracy of its contents. A range of information needs to be covered in the CMR note, including: The date and place at which the CMR note has been completed. The name and address of sender, carrier and consignee (the person to whom the goods are going). A description of the goods and their method of packing.
The description should be acceptable to the consignor and consignee. For security reasons, you do not always want the carrier to be able to identify valuable goods. The weight of the goods. Any charges related to the goods, such as customs duties or carriage charges. Instructions for customs and any other formalities. This list is not comprehensive. For full details you can download a copy of the CMR Convention from the UNECE website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Generally there will be three copies of a CMR note. One will be kept by the trader and another by the carrier, while the third will travel with the goods all the way to their final destination.
While the carrier is liable for any loss, damage or delay to a consignment until it is delivered, the trader is responsible for any loss or damage the carrier suffers resulting from incorrect details having been provided in the CMR note. Other documentation issues for transport by road If you transport goods by road, you need to be aware of the CMR note, the Forwarders’ Certificate of Receipt, the TIR system and forthcoming legislation changes. CMR note This is the main document you’ll need to deal with when transporting by road – see the page in this guide on the CMR note: the key road transport document. Forwarders’ certificate of receipt (FCR)
Increasingly, international trade journeys are intermodal, with freight forwarders playing a crucial coordinating role. Much road freight is organised in this way. “Forwarders’ documents” have been designed for these kinds of transactions. The FCR provides proof that a forwarder has accepted your goods with irrevocable instructions to deliver them to the consignee indicated on the FCR. Using an FCR can speed up payment. For example, if you’re selling overseas and your contract with the buyer states that the goods are collected from the factory and the buyer is responsible for arranging the freight, an FCR can be issued when your buyer’s forwarder collects goods.
You can then present the FCR for payment, rather than having to wait until a non-negotiable or negotiable transport document (the proof of the goods having been loaded onto the transport conveyance for the main international carriage, if any) is issued, which may be some time later. While an FCR is non-negotiable, another similar document, the Forwarders’ Certificate of Transport, is negotiable. This means that the forwarder accepts responsibility to deliver to a destination you specify – not to an unchangeable destination as with the FCR. The TIR system This allows vehicles to cross numerous borders without repeated customs checks. Goods are checked and sealed at the outset, and the vehicle is then waved through by customs authorities until it reaches its final destination. Traders must set up a security bond with the Road Haulage Association or the Freight Transport Association.
The system is currently being revised to include a new requirement for a safety and security/transit declaration along with revised procedures for handling transit enquiries. TIR doesn’t apply to journeys within the European Union (EU) because there are no customs checks for EU-only journeys. Transporting dangerous goods by road This page explains the procedures you must comply with for carrying dangerous goods by road. You may see two different terms used to refer to these rules – ADR and the Carriage Regulations – but both refer to the same provisions. ADR is a Europe-wide code on dangerous goods, while the Carriage Regulations translate that code into UK legislation.
The Carriage Regulations also apply to the transport of goods by rail – see our guide on moving goods by rail. The regulations apply to carriers and traders. Traders are often asked to produce the dangerous goods declaration and supporting documents (such as vehicle documentation, safety and accident reporting) and to ensure the goods are suitably packaged and labelled. Traders must also comply with two key sets of duties – classification and packaging. Classification Any dangerous goods you’re transporting must be marked with their name, description and United Nations (UN) number. The UN classifies dangerous goods in the following groups. UN Class
Dangerous Goods Classification 1 Explosives Explosive 2 Gases Flammable gas Non-flammable, non-toxic gas Toxic gas 3 Flammable liquid Flammable liquid 4 Flammable solids Flammable solid Spontaneously combustible substance Substance which emits flammable gas in contact with water 5 Oxidising substances Oxidising substance Organic peroxide 6 Toxic substances Toxic substance Infectious substance 7 Radioactive material Radioactive material 8 Corrosive substances Corrosive substance 9 Miscellaneous dangerous goods Miscellaneous dangerous goods Certain goods are prohibited from transport by road, eg, UN Class 3 goods likely to produce peroxides. Packaging
You must ensure that a qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser has checked that your goods are handled and packaged correctly. Drivers of dangerous loads will need to hold an ADR training certificate, unless they are transporting small loads. The goods must be well packed to withstand the disruption and movement you’d expect during transit. You must also check that your export packaging is clearly marked with the UN classification number from the table above and with the safety labels appropriate to that class of goods. You’re responsible for checking that your carrier’s vehicles clearly show they’ll be carrying dangerous goods. A shipper is legally obliged to make a declaration of the danger or hazard of the goods being transported.
For the movement of dangerous goods by sea, inland waterways, road and rail, the shipper can fulfil this requirement by completing a SITPRO Dangerous Goods Note (DGN); for air, the correct documentation is the International Air Transport Association Shipper’s Declaration of Dangerous Goods. However, the shipper can design, prepare and present a bespoke or “in-house” document for the surface modes (roads or rail) provided it contains the mandatory information. Some chemical and automotive companies have done this to accommodate specific business processes, such as the need for landscape (instead of a portrait) documentation. Security New security regulations require any business involved in the transport of dangerous goods to: only offer the goods to appropriate carriers make sites that temporarily store dangerous goods secure have a security awareness training programme in place ave a security plan in place, if involved with high-consequence dangerous goods Read guidance for businesses on transport security for dangerous goods on the Department for Transport (DfT) website – Opens in a new window. From 2010, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals will be introduced. It aims to protect workers, consumers and the environment by labelling chemicals in a way that explains their possible hazardous effects. It will harmonise the codes and regulations relating to the transport of dangerous goods and means businesses must classify, label and package their substances and mixtures appropriately before placing them on the market. The deadline for substance reclassification is currently 1 December 2010 and, for mixtures, 1 June 2015 Insurance for international road transport
As with any commercial transactions, there are risks associated with trading internationally. This page explains the likely risks you may encounter and the factors to consider. For insurance cover to be valid, you have to be able to show that you have an “insurable interest” in the insured goods. This means showing that the goods are yours and that you bear the risks associated with them. Risks The three main risks that arise in international trade are: loss damage delay (including detention at customs) Factors How risks are shared between buyers and sellers is a contractual matter. The point at which the insurable interest passes from supplier to buyer is determined by the sale of contract used.
You should be aware that Incoterms – a standardised set of trading terms – do not cover insurance unless the terms agreed are either CIF (costs, insurance and freight) or CIP (carriage and insurance paid to). For more information, see our guide to International commercial contracts – Incoterms. Under a CMR contract the carrier bears some limited liability (although this is determined on a case-by-case basis and sometimes the liability can be total), so traders should arrange the appropriate insurance cover. For more information, download a copy of the CMR Convention from the UNECE website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Traders often tend to under-insure themselves, so it’s recommended that you add 10 per cent to the amount of cover you think you need.
You can also arrange cover for contingencies, such as the buyer refusing to accept your goods when they arrive. Licences for international road transport Unless you are using your own vehicles, you don’t need to apply for any licences to transport your goods by road. However, you should make sure that anyone transporting goods for you is properly licensed. Anyone operating a goods vehicle must have an operator’s licence – sometimes referred to as an “O Licence”. These are required for any vehicle with a gross plated weight of more than 3. 5 tonnes. Drivers who transport dangerous goods need to hold an ADR training certificate, unless they are transporting small loads.
Three kinds of operator’s licence are available, and you should make sure that hauliers you use have the appropriate licence for your needs. The three categories are: restricted – the licence holder can carry their own goods within the UK standard national – the holder can carry both their own goods and goods for others within the UK standard international – the holder can carry their own goods and goods for others both in the UK and on international journeys For international trade, you need to ensure that your operator has a standard international licence. Bear in mind that there’s a wide range of other regulations and requirements that road hauliers must comply with. These include rules on the numbers of hours that drivers are permitted to work.
All goods vehicles must be fitted with a tachograph to monitor drivers’ working hours. Moving goods by rail Introduction Although rail has traditionally been used for moving bulk materials, there is a significant market in intermodal containers and non-bulk goods. Generally, exporters use rail when other modes of transport are unsuitable or relatively expensive. The rail industry’s recent move away from state monopolies and subsidies within the European Union has opened up competition and resulted in a growing market for rail services, encouraging new rail operators to enter the marketplace. Rail can be cheaper than other forms of transport, particularly over long distances, and can offer greater reliability and time savings.
However, rail services can take time to arrange and are not well suited to small consignments. This guide explains the rules governing the transport of goods by rail and highlights key documents you need. It also shows you how to decide if rail is the right mode of transport for you and how to assess your insurance needs. Decide if rail transport is right for you For international shipments, rail is often used as part of an intermodal movement where cargo is transferred between trains and other types of transport. Consignments shipped from Europe to the east coast of the USA often cross the American continent by rail rather than travel through the Panama Canal.
Through-rail services operate via the Channel Tunnel to mainland Europe, with route-planning beyond to Russia and Central Asia. You will need sufficient traffic for a trainload (several full wagons for each shipment), although a single container for multimodal movements can be booked on an existing service. Rail can be a complex transport solution, but used effectively it can give you a viable option for moving your goods. The advantages of rail transport include benefits to the environment and less expensive, quicker and more practical journeys when compared to road transport. Equally, limited and inflexible routes and timetables can increase costs and slow down the movement of goods.
While loading and marshalling are expensive, you can make economies by moving many consignments at once. Rail is generally more cost-efficient than road transport if the journey exceeds 400 kilometres. Deciding how best to route your goods around the world and which modes of transport to use at each stage of the journey can be a daunting task. Freight forwarders and transport operators are experts in finding the route and modes that meet your specific criteria, eg cost or duration. See our guide on using brokers and forwarders. Some traders choose to deal direct with rail companies for procedures such as booking freight, arranging rolling stock and organising rail-yard operations.
Transporting dangerous goods by rail The carriage of dangerous goods by rail has diminished due to the closure of rail-ferry services between the UK and the continent and because of the strict safety rules that apply to freight being carried via the Channel Tunnel. Europe-wide rules govern the transportation of dangerous goods by rail. These are known by the letters RID. You’ll also see references to the Carriage Regulations – these translate the RID rules into UK legislation. Note that the Carriage Regulations also cover the transport of goods by road. For more information, see our guide on moving goods by road. You must comply with three sets of duties. Classification
Any dangerous goods you transport must be marked with their name, description and UN number (the UN number states which of the following nine categories your dangerous goods come under). UN Class Dangerous Goods Classification 1 Explosives Explosive 2 Gases Flammable gas Non-flammable, non-toxic gas Toxic gas 3 Flammable liquid Flammable liquid 4 Flammable solids Flammable solid Spontaneously combustible substance Substance which emits flammable gas in contact with water 5 Oxidising substances Oxidising substance Organic peroxide 6 Toxic substances Toxic substance Infectious substance 7 Radioactive material Radioactive material 8 Corrosive substances Corrosive substance 9 Miscellaneous dangerous goods Miscellaneous dangerous goods Packaging
You must ensure that a qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser has checked that your goods are handled and packaged correctly. You should also make sure that security requirements have been met. Make sure dangerous goods are packed well enough to withstand the disruption and movement you’d expect during transit. Also ensure that goods are clearly marked with their UN number and safety labels appropriate to that class of goods have been attached. You should also check that rail carriages are clearly marked (placarded) to indicate which dangerous goods are being carried. If you transport dangerous goods through the Channel Tunnel, these will have to comply with the stricter rules enforced by the tunnel operator.
These rules were tightened following a fire in the tunnel in 1996. For more information, see the page within this guide on transporting freight through the Channel Tunnel rail link. Security New security regulations require any business involved in the transport of dangerous goods to: only offer the goods to appropriate carriers make sites that temporarily store dangerous goods secure have a security awareness training programme in place have a security plan in place, if involved with high consequence dangerous goods Read guidance for businesses on transport security for dangerous goods on the Department for Transport (DfT) website – Opens in a new window.
From 2010, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals will be introduced. It aims to protect workers, consumers and the environment by labelling chemicals in a way that explains their possible hazardous effects. It will harmonise codes and regulations relating to the transport of dangerous goods and means businesses must classify, label and package their substances and mixtures appropriately before placing them on the market. The deadline for substance reclassification is currently 1 December 2010 and, for mixtures, 1 June 2015. Transporting freight through the Channel Tunnel rail link The Channel Tunnel is the link for rail travel between the UK and continental Europe.
Rail-ferry services to the continent were ended after the tunnel opened. This page explains how traders can move goods through the tunnel and how to comply with regulations. There are two ways of transporting goods through the tunnel: on through-freight trains – these travel from UK terminals through the tunnel and into mainland Europe using road vehicles that roll on and roll off Channel Tunnel trains (the Shuttle) Road vehicles carrying freight through the Channel Tunnel must be no more than 18. 75 metres in length, 4. 2 metres in height and 44 tonnes in weight. Customs clearance for goods that travel to or from non-European Union countries via the Channel Tunnel can be processed at the Folkestone terminal.
You can read about transporting freight through the tunnel on the Eurotunnel website (registration required) – Opens in a new window. Transporting dangerous goods through the tunnel The Channel Tunnel policy on transporting dangerous goods is based on the Europe-wide ADR set of rules, but it is somewhat stricter. Following a fire in 1996, certain goods cannot be transported, including certain explosives – those with the UN number UN0330 – and the substance p-Nitrosodimethylaniline (UN1369). Key rail transport documents If you transport goods by rail, you need to be aware of the CIM note, forwarders’ certificates and forthcoming changes in legislation that may affect your paperwork. CIM consignment note
This document confirms that the rail carrier has received the goods and that a contract of carriage exists between trader and carrier. Unlike a bill of lading, a CIM note isn’t a document of title. It doesn’t give its holder rights of ownership or possession of the goods. Key details to be provided in the note include: a description of the goods the number of packages and their weight the names and addresses of the sender and recipient The sender is responsible for the accuracy of CIM notes, and is liable for any loss or damage suffered by the carrier due to inaccurate information. Notes are used to calculate compensation if goods are lost or damaged.
You can download a guide on consignment procedures, including a copy of the CIM consignment note from the International Rail Transport Committee website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. You can also download the CIM Uniform Rules from the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. Forwarders’ certificates Increasingly, international trade journeys are intermodal, with freight forwarders playing a crucial coordinating role. “Forwarders’ documents” have been designed for these kinds of transactions. The Forwarders’ Certificate of Receipt (FCR) provides proof that a forwarder has accepted your goods with irrevocable instructions to deliver them to the consignee indicated on the FCR. Using an FCR can speed up payment.
For example, if you’re selling overseas and your contract with the buyer states that the goods are collected from the factory, an FCR can be issued when your buyer’s forwarder collects goods. You can then present the FCR for payment, rather than having to wait until a non-negotiable or negotiable transport document (the proof of the goods having been loaded onto the transport conveyance for the main international carriage, if any) is issued, which may be some time later. While an FCR is non-negotiable, another similar document, the Forwarders’ Certificate of Transport (FCT), is negotiable. This means that the forwarder accepts responsibility to deliver to a destination you specify – not to an unchangeable destination as with the FCR. Insurance for international rail transport
As with any commercial transaction, there are risks associated with trading internationally. This page explains the likely risks you may encounter and the factors to consider. You should make sure you arrange the insurance cover you need before moving your goods by rail or any other mode of transport. In order for insurance cover to be valid, you must show that you have an insurable interest in the insured goods. This means showing that the goods are yours and that you bear the risks associated with them. Three main risks arise in international trade. These are loss, damage and delay, including detention at customs. The contracts you draw up should use Incoterms to specify exactly how these risks are shared between buyer and seller.
Incoterms are an internationally recognised set of trading terms that spell out exactly when responsibility for the costs and risks of a transaction shift from seller to buyer. This will affect your insurance needs because the greater the costs you’re responsible for, the greater the insurance cover you’ll need to arrange. For more information, see our guide to international commercial contracts – Incoterms. Traders frequently under-insure themselves, so it is recommended that you add 10 per cent to the amount of cover you think you need. You can also arrange cover for contingencies such as the buyer refusing to accept your goods when they arrive.
For more information about arranging insurance for your international trade, see our guide on transport insurance. Transport logistics for business Introduction Each business has its own particular transport needs. These depend on the nature of the business and the type of products or services it buys and sells. This guide will help you decide on the most appropriate transportation for your business needs and assess the tax implications and costs to your business. It also tells you what licences, insurance and training you or your staff will need to operate business vehicles. Pros and cons of different modes of transport When deciding which method of transport to use, you need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Depending on the distance, destination, volume and type of goods you deliver, if you want to transport goods directly from door-to-door, you can choose between different types of road transport, such as bikes, cars, vans or trucks or use alternatives such as rail, air, sea or electronic delivery. Method Advantages Disadvantages Road Cheap, convenient, flexible, private Noisy, pollutes the environment, less safe than alternatives, stressful for drivers, potential delays, can be expensive where there are congestion or road charges Rail Fast, safe, more environmentally friendly than alternatives, does not add to congestion Limited routes, inflexible routes and timetables, expensive, sometimes unreliable Air Fast for long distance deliveries, safe Expensive, unsuitable for some goods, limited routes, inflexible timetables, pollutes the environment, airport taxes Sea Cheap for large volumes
Very slow, relatively few ports, inflexible routes and timetables, port duty or taxes – requires inland transportation for door-to-door delivery Courier Fast, reliable, secure Expensive, weight of deliveries is limited Electronic delivery Instant, cheap, for international and domestic deliveries Insecure due to viruses and hackers, limited to certain goods and services Distribution and logistics When deciding which type of transport meets your business’ distribution needs, there are several logistical factors you may want to take into account. What you want to transport Consider the nature of the products you need to distribute. Are they perishable dangerous or expensive? If you transport perishable goods such as food, you may wish to consider specialised refrigerated transport.
If you transport goods that are classified as dangerous, you must meet requirements regarding packaging, labelling, training of drivers, etc. You can contact the Enquiry Point of the Department for Transport Dangerous Goods Branch on Tel 020 7944 2755 or email them at dangerousgoods@dft. gsi. gov. uk. When transporting people or live animals you will need to gauge the expected volume to ensure your transport has an appropriate capacity and meets health and safety standards. See our guide on transporting goods and materials. Frequency and timing of deliveries Your goods or services may need to go to single or multiple destinations in the UK, Europe or across the world. You need to decide: if you will deliver daily, monthly, etc hether you want delivery capability to be available 24-hours a day whether you can predict the dates and times you’ll need to distribute your goods how much control you want over the timing of your deliveries, eg whether your schedules fit with train timetables how quickly you want goods to reach their destination Transportation costs Transporting goods by air or courier tend to be the most expensive methods per unit, but can be the fastest. Using trains, ships or the post can be more cost-effective, but not always practical, especially if the goods are perishable. Email is another cost-effective delivery method but is limited to electronic files and data.
Using carriers or buying or leasing business vehicles There are three main ways of acquiring the use of vehicles. You can: buy your own vehicles outright hire purchase or lease them use a courier or distributor to move your goods The most cost-effective choice for your business depends on the amount and frequency of the goods you deliver. Don’t buy your own vehicles if they will sit idle for most of the time, or be half empty when on the road – balance this with any tax breaks you may miss out on. If you produce certain goods, eg very fragile ones, making sure that they reach your customer in one piece may be your priority, and it may be easier to do this using your own transport.
Your goods may be insured when a carrier transports them, but this may not compensate for losing a customer if their goods arrive in pieces. If your business places particular emphasis on customer service or prompt delivery, then owning your own vehicles may be advisable. If you want flexibility and control over when you transport goods, and want the ability to dispatch goods at a moment’s notice, then owning your vehicles makes business sense. As well as the upfront vehicle costs, there are extra costs to take into account before making the final decision, eg vehicle licences, employee training and fuel and maintenance costs. Leasing or renting vehicles is an alternative.
It gives you more control over transporting your goods than using carriers, and allows you to minimise costs by hiring vehicles only when you need to. If you operate your own vehicles, your drivers are allowed to work a maximum of 60 hours in a single week and no more than an average of 48 hours a week. This is normally calculated over 17 weeks. Carriers can be more expensive but provide a more complete transportation service. Logistics providers, for example, can manage the entire process for you, including organising any documentation that is needed. See the page in this guide on couriers, hauliers, freight forwarders and logistics services.
Couriers, hauliers, freight forwarders and logistics services If you decide to use a carrier, there are several options to consider. Couriers specialise in the speedy and secure delivery of small goods and packages. They deliver nationally and internationally. They only deliver goods up to a certain weight. Find a courier service in your area on the locateacourier website – Opens in a new window. Hauliers will collect goods from your premises and deliver them to your chosen destination by road. This may prove expensive if your goods don’t fill up an entire vehicle, such as a van or truck. Freight forwarders specialise in “consolidation”. This means they combine your goods with other consignments in a single container or vehicle, reducing the costs.
They generally offer related services, eg organising the paperwork for exports. You can search for a freight forwarder on the British International Freight Association (BIFA) website – Opens in a new window. Logistics service providers manage the entire transportation process, tracking goods and organising any documentation needed. They can also provide warehousing and local distribution centres if necessary. When choosing a carrier, you need to consider: their experience of handling similar products to yours their experience in the modes of transport you wish to use cost and extra charges delivery schedules their location whether they offer national and international coverage hether they provide insurance membership of trade associations and professional bodies word of mouth recommendations Vehicle licences You may need to apply for a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) operator’s licence if you want to operate vehicles over 3,500 kilograms. Even if you do not drive the vehicle, and one of your employees is the driver, you are still classified as an operator. This means you need to apply for a licence. If you carry passengers for hire or reward you may need to apply for a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence. If you or one of your employees needs to drive a minibus or van you may need to apply for a Passenger Carrying Vehicle licence.
If you or one of your employees needs to drive a vehicle with a permissible maximum weight of 3. 5 tonnes or less and carry dangerous goods commercially you may need to apply for a driver training certificate (commonly known as an “ADR licence”). For information on licences for transporting chemicals, livestock and hazardous materials see our guide on transporting goods and materials. Applying for vehicle licences You need to contact the local traffic area office that covers the area where your vehicle will be parked when not in use. You can find your local traffic area office on the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) website – Opens in a new window. Or you can access a form from the Internet:
LGV licences – download guidance about vehicle operator licensing from the VOSA website (PDF) – Opens in a new window PSV licences – download a public service operator licensing application form from the VOSA website (PDF) – Opens in a new window You must disclose any court convictions when applying for a PSV licence. You have to advertise your application in a local paper, if you are applying for a LGV licence. The relevant traffic commissioner considers the application. Both licences are valid indefinitely, unless revoked for a specific violation. You have to pay regular fees. International trade paperwork: the basics Introduction When trading internationally the right paperwork is crucial. Missing or inaccurate documents can increase risks, lead to delays and extra costs, or even prevent a deal being completed.
Whether you are importing or exporting, you need to understand what paperwork is required. Even if you use a freight forwarder or an agent, it’s still up to you to make sure the right documentation is available. This guide explains the key documentation you should be aware of. It outlines what should be in your contracts and what paperwork you need for customs, transport and payment. The information contained in this guide is basic information. For additional basic information see our section on paperwork basics. Key documentation for international trade Making sure you have the right documentation is a vital part of international trade. Thorough, accurate paperwork minimises the risk of problems and delays.
There should be a clear written contract between buyer and seller, including details of exactly where goods will be delivered. See the page in this guide on international trade contracts and Incoterms. Specific documents may be needed to get the goods through customs and to work out the right duty and tax charges. There may be requirements both for the country the goods are being exported from and the country they are being imported into. See the pages in this guide on import documentation and export documentation. Documentation is needed to cover the transport of the goods and insurance during the journey. See the page in this guide on international transport documentation. The right paperwork can be an important part of the payment mechanism.
See the page in this guide on international trade documentation and payments. It’s important to co-operate with your counterpart on getting the paperwork right. For example, if you’re shipping goods to a customer overseas, they should tell you what paperwork they require at their end. If you are dealing with a non-English speaking country, it can be a good idea to provide one set of commercial documents in the local language. You may want to get help with handling paperwork. Many businesses use the services of a freight forwarder or import agent. The British International Freight Association may be able to identify a suitable freight forwarder. However, you should remember that you are ultimately responsible.
International trade contracts and Incoterms Different countries have different business cultures and even languages. It’s a good idea to make sure you have a clear written contract to minimise the risk of misunderstandings. The contract should set out where the goods are being delivered. It should cover who is responsible for every stage of the journey, including customs clearance, and what insurance is required. It should also make it clear who pays for each different cost. To avoid confusion, internationally agreed Incoterms should be used to spell out exactly what delivery terms are being agreed, such as: where the goods will be delivered who arranges transport ho is responsible for insuring the goods, and who pays for insurance who handles customs procedures, and who pays any duties and taxes For example, an exporter might agree to deliver goods, at the exporter’s expense, to a port in the customer’s country. The customer might then take over responsibility, arranging and paying for customs clearance and delivery to their premises. The exporter might also be responsible for arranging insurance for the goods until they reach the port, but pass this cost on to the customer. See our guide on international commercial contracts – Incoterms. Read a guide to Incoterms on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window and see our guide on international transport and distribution. As well as including delivery details, the contract should cover payment.
This should include what currency payment will be made in, how much will be paid, when payment is due and what payment method will be used. See the page in this guide on international trade documentation and payments. Trade in services With no physical delivery of the product, contracts in services cannot use Incoterms. Instead, the key issue tends to be defining exactly what services are being provided and to what standards. See our guide on international trade in services. Import documentation You may need an import licence to import goods into the UK. There are import controls on a range of different goods including firearms, food and textiles.
Whether you need a licence may also depend on where the goods are from. See our guide: do you need an export or import licence? Goods from European Union (EU) countries can generally be brought into the UK with minimal paperwork, though it’s good practice to ask your supplier to send a copy of the invoice with the goods. If you are importing from outside the EU, you generally need an invoice and a copy of the transport documentation, such as a Bill of Lading, for customs clearance. For goods worth over ? 6,500, a valuation statement is also normally required. Goods from some countries can be imported with a reduced or zero rate of import duty.
If you want to claim this, you need documentary proof of origin showing that the goods were manufactured or produced in the preference country in accordance with preferential rules of origin. Read about import preferences on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website – Opens in a new window. You can declare the imports to customs using a Single Administrative Document (SAD), also known as form C88. You must give details of the goods using a “commodity code” which determines what the rate of import duty is. Most importers use a freight forwarder or customs agent to handle customs clearance. Read about import documents on the HMRC website – Opens in a new window. VAT
You pay VAT on imports from outside the EU to HMRC at the same rates as UK goods. If you are registered for VAT you can reclaim this VAT in the same way as for goods purchased within the UK. Instead of having a VAT invoice from your supplier, HMRC provides a form C79 showing the VAT paid. See our guide on excise and VAT in international trade. If you buy goods from a supplier within the EU, you account for VAT on your VAT return. See our guide: international trade VAT: the basics. If your purchases from EU countries exceed an annual amount – ? 260,000 from 1 January 2007 – you must also complete the Intrastat supplementary declaration. See our guide on an introduction to Intrastat. Export documentation
You may need an export licence to export goods. For example, there are controls on exports of chemicals and military technology. Licence requirements may also depend on which country you are exporting to. See our guide: do you need an export or import licence? Export declarations If you are selling goods within the European Union (EU), most goods are in free circulation and can be freely moved from the UK to other EU countries without customs controls or charges. It’s good practice to accompany shipments with a commercial invoice and a packing list if appropriate. If you are selling to customers outside the EU, you need to declare your exports to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
This is generally done electronically, using the New Export System (NES). The declaration includes details of the classification of the goods being exported and which country they are going to. Find information on the NES on the HMRC website – Opens in a new window. Alternatively, an authorised agent or freight forwarder can handle the customs declaration for you. Export VAT For VAT purposes, exports are generally zero-rated. You need to keep copies of your VAT invoices and proof of export. This helps you prove that the goods left the country and that you do not have to pay any output VAT on them. See our guide: international trade VAT: the basics and excise and VAT in international trade.
If your sales to EU countries exceed an annual amount – ? 260,000 from 1 January 2007 – you must also complete the Intrastat supplementary declaration. Exports to countries outside the EU do not count towards the Intrastat threshold and do not need to be included. See our guide on an introduction to Intrastat. Overseas imports You should check what documentation is required for import into your customer’s country. Typically, you need a commercial invoice and shipping documents such as an Air Waybill. Other requirements can include a certificate of origin. See the page in this guide on international trade documentation – special cases. International transport documentation
Transport documentation is needed to provide instructions to the carrier on what should be done with the goods. They can be used to pass responsibility for, and sometimes ownership of, the goods during their journey. Transport documents are also an essential part of some payment procedures. See the page in this guide on international trade documentation and payments. If you are exporting goods, you typically complete an Export Cargo Shipping Instruction (ECSI) giving the freight forwarder details of the goods and how they are to reach their destination. Download an ECSI completion guide from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. You also normally complete a Standard Shipping Note (SSN), telling the port how to handle the goods.
Download an SSN completion guide from the SITPRO website (PDF) – Opens in a new window. The carrier should provide you with documentary evidence that they have received the goods, eg a bill of lading or a waybill. You should keep any documents as evidence in case of later problems with the shipment. Read about export documentation and procedures on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window. A CIM Consignment Note gives details of the goods being transported. If you are shipping dangerous goods, you must also complete a dangerous goods declaration. Read a dangerous goods note completion guide on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window. You may need to insure the goods.
You may also be required to provide proof of insurance to your customer, particularly if you are passing on the costs. You should discuss what documentation is required with your customer and your insurer. See our guide on insurance for international trade. International trade documentation and payments The right paperwork plays an important part in making and receiving payment. Documentary collections and documentary credits are payment methods often used in international trade. By using special paperwork, the risk of the customer failing to pay or the supplier failing to deliver is reduced: With a documentary collection, the exporter prepares a bill of exchange stating how much is to be paid and when.
Once the customer accepts this bill of exchange, the customer is legally liable for payment. Only then does the exporter, usually through the bank in the overseas country, allow the customer to have the transport documents needed to take possession of the goods. With a documentary credit, the customer arranges a letter of credit from their bank. The bank agrees to pay the exporter once all the right documentation – such as transport documents showing the right goods have been despatched – is received. The exporter must provide the required paperwork within the agreed time limit and with no discrepancies. See our guide on getting paid when selling overseas.
If you are using one of these payment methods, it’s important to understand what documentation is required and ensure it is accurate. Payments under letter of credit can be particularly problematic as the exporter must provide exactly the right documentation to get paid. Read about payment methods on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window. Regardless of what payment method you agree, you should have a clear written contract stating what amount is due, in what currency, and when. The contract should also make it clear who is responsible for any bank charges. International trade documentation – special cases In some cases international trade requires special documentation.
If you are importing goods, you may need proof of which country the goods come from. For example, some imports into the UK are entitled to preferential rates of duty but require a form EUR1. Find out about import preferences on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) website – Opens in a new window. Similarly, if you are exporting, your customer may require a certificate of origin from you. Your Chamber of Commerce can issue these. Read about export procedures on the Chamber online website – Opens in a new window. There are special UK requirements for some controlled goods, such as firearms, medicines, plants and animal products. For example, a licence may be required. See our guide: do you need an export or import licence?
If you are exporting, you should check whether any special documentation is required overseas to satisfy local regulations. For example, you might need documentary proof that your goods meet local product standards. Research overseas markets on the UK Trade & Investment website – Opens in a new window. Dangerous goods must be accompanied by appropriate special paperwork. Read a dangerous goods note completion guide on the SITPRO website – Opens in a new window. There are simplified processes for temporary exports, eg if you are taking samples to an overseas exhibition.