Transit Procedures

Transit Procedures

Transit procedures facilitate the free movement of goods through the EU and third countries, by temporarily suspending duties and charges until they reach their final destination.  There are three types of transit procedures.

Community Transit applies to movement of goods within the EU territories only. Common Transit, covers movements between the Community and one or more EFTA countries. TIR Transports Internationaux Routiers applies in respect of movement through the EU and one or more of the Non-EU Countries, a party to the TIR Convention 1975. Community transit is given effect by EU Regulation. TIR is the subject of the TIR Convention, 1975.

The Community Transit System provides for the movement under customs control through the EU, of goods that are not in free circulation and for the movement of free circulation goods in certain circumstances.

External / Internal Community Transit

The External Community Transit Procedure facilitates the movement of non-Community goods within the customs territory of the EU, under a system of customs control. It ensures that duties and other charges payable are secured. The charges are collected at the customs office of destination in the State specified and not at the external frontier.

External Community Transit applies to the movement of EU and non-EU goods moving through the EU in the course of export from the EU to an EFTA country or for transit through the territory of one or more EFTA countries, where the common transit procedure is being used and the goods:

  • have undergone customs formalities with a view to granting export refunds;
  • from intervention stocks and subject to control as to use and/or destination and have undergone customs export formalities on export to third countries under the CAP;
  • are eligible for the payment, repayment or remission of import duties on condition that they are exported from the customs territory of the Community;
  • are Inward Processing goods on which a refund will be sought when they are exported as compensating products.

The Internal Community Transit Procedure applies to the movement of goods when they are conveyed from one State to another, through an EFTA country, where the movement through the EFTA country is by road.  It also applies to trade with the non-fiscal areas of the Community such as the Channel Islands and the Canary Islands.

Community goods consigned from one port in the Community to another through the territory of one or more EFTA countries which are carried by sea or air are not required to move under a transit procedure.

Scope of Common and Community Transit

The territory of a third country, other than an EFTA country, may be crossed during the course of Community Transit provided the carriage through the third country is affected under a single transport document drawn up in a Member State.

The Common and Community Transit Systems do not apply when goods are being transported under another internationally agreed system, including

  • carriage of goods under a TIR Carnet;
  • carriage of goods under an ATA Carnet used as a transit document;
  • carriage of goods by post.

The Community and Common Transit Systems do not apply to the carriage of goods within the State where the movement is covered by a national procedure, such as a trans-shipment bond.

Sea Transport in EU

In the case of carriage within the EU by sea transport, there are two procedures: Authorised regular shipping services and other community shipping services. A regular shipping service is a regular service which carries goods in vessels that ply only between ports situated in the Customs territory of the EU. They may not come from, go or call to any points outside the territory or in a free zone of a port in the territory.

The procedures for the intra-Community movement of goods by sea, on an authorised regular shipping service is similar to those applicable by road. Goods in free circulation will move freely without the need for customs documentation.

Non-free circulation goods are required to move under the transit procedure. The ship’s manifest is used as a transit declaration, and the shipping company is principal. A transit guarantee is required, except where the ship’s manifest is used as a transit declaration.

In the case of other Community shipping services, those that are not authorised regular shipping services, the Community status of all goods carried on board must be demonstrated. They are assumed to be non-Community goods until the contrary is shown.


An authorisation to operate regular shipping services is granted to shipping companies which

  • have an established in the Community customs territory and whose records are available to the competent authorities;
  • are able to satisfy the customs authorities that they operate a regular service;
  • have not committed any serious or repeated offences in connection with the operation of a regular shipping service;
  • undertake that on the routes for which authorisation is requested, that no calls will be made to any port in a third country, that no trans-shipments will be made on the high seas, that the authorisation certificate will be carried on board the vessel and presented on request to the competent customs authorities.

An application for an authorisation is made to the customs authorities in the state where the shipping company is established. A copy of the application is sent to the central administration of the other states requesting their agreement. They may refuse agreement. In the absence of refusal within 60 days, an authorisation is granted.

Transit Operations

Each Transit Operation must be carried out by a principal who accepts responsibility for the transit. The principal makes a transit declaration that he wishes to carry out a transit operation. He is responsible for the production of the goods seals intact and a transit declaration at the office of destination within the prescribed time limit. He is responsible for paying duties and other charges that may become due, in the event of an irregularity. The principal may authorise a representative to act on his behalf.

At the time of making a Transit Declaration, the principal will normally be required to present a guarantee certificate or cash deposit to cover the amount of duty and other charges on the goods. A guarantee certificate may be issued by the guarantee office on receipt of a properly completed form of undertaking from a guarantor and an application for authorisation. It is valid throughout the EU.


The guarantor may be an individual or body, which is eligible to contract as a legal person, normally a bank or an insurance company.  Generally, it must be established in the EU. The guarantor is responsible for payment of duties and other charges, as a result of an irregularity concerning a transit declaration, where the principal fails to pay.

An individual guarantee covers the amount of duty and charges on goods in a single transit operation. It may be in the form of an undertaking from a guarantor or a cash deposit. A comprehensive guarantee covers a number of transit operations. A guarantee waiver may involve a reduction in the amounts required to be covered, subject to criteria.

A transit guarantee is not required in Community Transit for transit movements solely by air or state railway companies. It is not required for intra-Community movement by sea by an authorised regular shipping service, where the ship’s manifest is used as the transit declaration.

Inputting Dara

All transit declarations are made through Revenue’s computerised transit system. This provides for input and processing of the declaration by electronic means.

A trader using normal transit procedures must input the relevant data on the transit declaration through NCTS, including the principal’s guarantee reference number, trader’s access code and the potential liability in respect of the goods covered. When the data is input, the system generates a unique Movement Reference Number and identifies transit at NCTS offices throughout the EU.

When the information is correctly input, a transit accompanying document is printed for the office of departure for the trader. The trader must collect this when presenting the goods for examination. Transit may then commence.   Appropriate messages are automatically sent to the office of destination and to transit offices en route.

Authorised Consignor

An Authorised Consignor is a regular consignor of goods who may be authorised by Revenue to issue and authenticate transit documents, without having to present them to customs at the time of dispatch. The trader must be a regular exporter of goods. A comprehensive transit guarantee must be provided. Suitable records must be kept, and the trader must communicate electronically through NCTS.

Authorised consignees may be approved by Revenue to receive goods that arrive under the transit system to their own premises without first presenting them to customs at the offices of declaration. They must fulfil certain conditions, including that they frequently receive consignments under the system; maintain suitable records; provide a bond; and communicate electronically through NCTS.

Airlines, railway companies and shipping lines which are prepared to act as principals, may use a Simplified Transit Procedure involving the use of the Manifest or transport documents as the transport declaration.

Common Transport EFTA Countries I

Common Transport applies to movements between the EU territory and EFTA countries. It is broadly similar to Community Transport. Goods being exported from the State by air or direct sea to an EFTA country, do not require to be placed under a T1 or T2 procedure.

Non-Community Goods to which External Community Transit Procedure T1 applies should be placed under the T1 procedure before departure from the State. In other cases, the office of destination shown on the transit declaration will be located in the EFTA country concerned.

If Community goods are transported by sea or air, direct to a port or airport in an EFTA Country, to be unloaded / carried by land to the final destination under a transit procedure, the goods must be placed under T2 Internal Community Transit Procedure before departure from the State.

Common Transport EFTA Countrues II

Community Goods consigned from one Member State to another by road through the territory of an EFTA country must be placed under the Internal Community Transit T2. Where transit operations are initiated in an EFTA Country, the transit procedure will normally be the T1 Procedure.

Only movements by road will be under a Transit Declaration. Direct movements by air or sea do not require to be put under a Transit Declaration.

Goods coming from a third country and trans-shipped to a port in an EFTA country for onward movement to the EU, do not require a T1 procedure at the EFTA port. The guarantee required must be valid for EFTA countries involved in the transit operation. Guarantors must approve correspondents in those countries.

TIR Convention

TIR can be used in the EU when the movement either starts or ends in a third country, or where the goods move between two or more States via the territory of a third country. The TIR System facilitates, to the greatest possible extent, the movement in international trade while protecting the revenue of each State through which goods are passed.

The TIR system provides for the movement of goods under customs seal, in approved road vehicles or containers, across one or more frontiers. It is a requirement that some portion of the journey between the beginning and end of the operation must be made by road.

TIR plates must be displayed on the vehicle during the TIR operation. Each container must have a TIR approved plate permanently affixed.

TIR System

If a journey begins outside the European Union, the Transport International Routers (TIR) procedure can be used for movements to and from countries that are contracting parties to the TIR Convention.   The goods must travel by road in approved vehicles and containers under custom seal accompanied by a TIR carnet document.  The importer or his freight forwarder must be authorised to use the TIR. Potential taxes and duties on the goods must be guaranteed.

The TIR procedure is similar to the Community Transit System.  Approved vehicles and containers must be used.  The vehicles must be secure, suitable for sealing and have permanent identification marks.  The vehicles must contain and display the commonly seen TIR plates.  A guarantee must be taken out.

If goods are entered under the TIR System, a carnet must be obtained from the granting authority.  This is the Road Haulage Association in the UK.  This TIR carnet is evidence that the carrier has a basic criteria of financial standing and knowledge of the TIR System. The carnet must be presented to the customs office of departure transit and destination. Once the journey is completed, the guarantee is returned to the guaranteeing authority.

Since 1993, the EU has been a single territory for the TIR convention.  Therefore TIR carnets are not used for movements between EU Member States.   If the journey is routed through a non-EU State or there is a split delivery to destinations within or outside  the EU, a TIR carnet may be used.

Certain goods are prohibited from using this system. Broadly speaking they are excisable alcohol and tobacco goods.

ATA Carnets I

The ATA Carnet is an international document used under International Conventions between countries.  The Carnet enables goods to be temporarily taken in and out of the EU for certain temporary purposes, without having to complete custom declarations and formalities which would usually be required.  They are not mandatory but are convenient in that they simplify customs clearance.   Security needs to be lodged in each country, through which the goods pass.

An ATA Carnet must be applied for in advance.  Security must be lodged at the highest amount of duty and tax that would have to be paid on the journey at any point.   The way Carnets are issued vary from country to country.   The application requires explanation as to what it is going to be used for, details of the main holder and the route.

ATA Carnets II

Sixty one countries recognise ATA Carnets.  They can only be used where they are recognised by the originating destination and intermediate countries.  Export and transit procedures will apply where ATA Carnet goods which are brought into a non-convention country.

Goods which are covered by the ATA Carnet and leave the EU for a third non EU country must have a Carnet every time they cross the frontier of a signatory country.  It must be shown when the goods first leave the country of export.  Custom officers will certify the document, endorse and remove the exportation voucher and stamp the counterfoil.

The Carnet must be presented to customs at the port or airport of arrival.  Customs then endorse the importation voucher and stamp the counterfoil.  If goods are imported into the UK from a third country or the goods are included in a passengers baggage, the Carnet must be presented at the red channel in the airport or ferry port.

If goods are to be released into circulation or are used or sold in another EU country it is necessary to explain why this is the case, complete the normal customs declaration and pay the import duties and VAT. It may be necessary to pay compensatory interest so that one does not get an advantage over competitors who have paid duty at the time of import.  There are restrictions, prohibitions and licensing controls that apply to certain  imported goods in the UK.  These also apply to temporarily imported goods.

Qualifying Goods

The following are some of the categories of goods that may be imported under the ATA carnet procedure:-

  • goods for display at exhibition fair meetings;
  • professional equipment for broadcasting;
  • samples;
  • advertising films;
  • printed and developed film for promotional purposes;
  • media with sound recorded dubbing or reproduction;
  • certain advertising or publicity articles;
  • media reels for carrying data;
  • production equipment on temporary loan;
  • goods for cultural purposes;
  • personal effects;
  • welfare materials for sea farers;
  • sports goods for contests, demonstrations and training;
  • tourism publicity material.

Live animals can be moved under an ATA Carnet if they are imported for training, breeding, weighing, medical purposes, grazing, rescue operations, are used for police dogs etc.

Non Qualifying Goods

The following are not permitted under ATA Carnet:

  • consumable and perishable goods
  • goods for sale or auction
  • goods temporarily imported for processing or repair
  • goods imported or exported by post educational or scientific materials
  • packaging materials, containers and pallets
  • means of transport imported for use in the UK (such as cars etc)
  • goods subject to an export refund or CAP refund
  • alcoholic beverages, tobacco goods and fuel