The following gives a very brief overview of the types of customs documentation used within the International Transport community. With the varying types of transport operations, operators and drivers will become aware - through either the handling of these documents or through the basic knowledge of their process - of what is required for the loads they carry throughout Europe and beyond.
The most commonly used document by drivers, operators and forwarders alike, the CMR note is an international consignment note which is specified under the Convention for the Contract of the International Carriage of Goods by Road 1956 (the CMR Convention). Signed in Geneva on 19th May 1956, it is embodied into UK law by the Carriage of Goods by Road Act 1965 (as amended by the Carriage by Air and Road Act 1979).
The CMR Conventions governs the responsibilities and liabilities of the parties to a contract for the carriage of goods by road internationally. A CMR document is not a document of title and is therefore non-negotiable.
For UK based exporters, a CMR document would apply only to goods carried by a road vehicle on a roll-on roll-off ferry or via the Channel Tunnel. It does not apply to goods that cross the international border in a container on a ship.
A CMR form is a 4 part document comprising of;
- sender's copy (red)
- consignee's copy (blue)
- carrier's copy (green)
- administration copy (white with black border)
The carrier usually completes the form, but the consignor is responsible for the accuracy of the information and must sign the form when
the goods are collected. The consignee will also sign the form on delivery, which is essential for the carrier as a signed copy is in
many cases the carriers only confirmation of delivery and means for payment of his haulage charge(s).
To download a copy of the CMR Convention, click on the link below.
T1 and T2 Documents
T1 and T2 documents are Transit documents. There are 2 systems which allow the movement of goods within the European wide system, these are;
- The Community transit system (CT)
- The New Computerised Transit System (NCTS)
The Community transit system (CT) allows goods that are not in free circulation in the European Community (non-Community goods) to move between two points within the Community without being subject to import duties and other charges.
The New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) is a European wide system, based upon electronic declaration and processing, designed to provide
better management and control of CT. It involves all EU Member States and the EFTA countries.
Each country's own NCTS processing system is connected, through a central domain in Brussels, to all of the other countries. Since NCTS mandation on the 1 July 2005, paper transit documents are only accepted from private travellers (with goods in excess of allowances) and during NCTS fallback.
An example of how the electronic system works is as follows;
A truck is loaded for Italy today and a T1 document is issued by Transit. Immediately after preparing the electronic T1 document the
clearing office in Italy will receive the message containing details of the goods. If no confirmation message has been returned by the
Italian office within 3 days, it will be necessary to investigate the status of the truck.
This electronic system is far more efficient than the previous method of paperwork being carried by drivers. It also reduces the risk of paperwork getting lost, documents not clearing, which reduces the risk of fines/penalties issued for non-clearance.
The ATA carnet is an international Customs document which is presented to Customs each time goods enter or leave a country. It allows goods to be temporarily imported without payment of Customs charges for up to one year and can cover one or more different types of goods.
The benefit of using an ATA carnet is the legal free movement of goods across frontiers and covers their temporary admission into a country with relief from customs duties, excise duty and VAT.
Using a carnet;
- avoids the need to complete national Customs declarations or to provide fresh security for customs charges potentially due in each country visited;
- simplifies Customs clearance of goods in each country visited;
- can be used in different countries around the world; and
- can help overcome problems that may otherwise result from language barriers and having to complete unfamiliar Customs forms.
An ATA carnet can be used by private travellers or businesses. When a carnet is issued, the person who can use it will be named on the front cover of the carnet, this person is the 'holder'. The carnet can be used by the holder or a representative named on the carnet. The holder does not have to own the goods but does accept liability for any customs duty and other charges that may be incurred.
Responsibilities of the carnet holder are to ensure;
- the country into which the goods are going to be imported accepts ATA carnets for the goods concerned; and
- that the carnet is presented to Customs for endorsement each time the goods enter or leave a country.
TIR is used to move goods, essentially by road, between two Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention or between two points in a participating country as long as the movement passes through a third country. The payment of duties and other charges are suspended. For the purposes of TIR, the Community is regarded as a single territory. TIR is only permitted in the EU when the movement either begins, ends or transits a third country.
TIR stands for 'Transport Internationale Routiers' which in English means International Road Transport. It is an international transit system allowing goods to travel across one or more international borders with the minimum of customs involvement. At the beginning of 2010 the TIR System had 68 Contracting Parties (including the European Union) on four continents. Many more countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have demonstrated their interest in acceding to the system in the near future.
In order to ensure that goods may travel with a minimum intervention en route and yet offer maximum safeguards for Customs administrations in all countries of transit, the TIR regime contains five basic requirements or principles. These principles are;
- the goods should travel in secure vehicles or containers (Secure vehicles or containers);
- throughout the journey, duties and taxes at risk must be covered by an internationally valid guarantee administered through national guarantee associations. The UK has approved two associations, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) (International guarantee);
- the goods should be accompanied by an internationally recognised document, the TIR Carnet. This is taken into use in the country of departure and serves as the Customs control document in the countries of departure, transit and destination (TIR Carnet);
- Customs control measures taken in the country of departure should be accepted by the countries of transit and destination (Mutual recognition of Customs controls);
- access to the TIR procedure for
- national associations to issue TIR Carnets; and for
- natural and legal persons to utilise TIR carnets should be authorised by competent national authorities (Controlled access).
The laws on which the above is based are contained within;
- The TIR Convention 1975;
- Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 and Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93; and
- The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
International Road Transport Union
The IRU TIR-EPD application allows TIR Carnet Holders to comply, free of charge, with the EU NCTS/TIR and EORI Regulations which entered into force in 2009, as well as with the new EU security requirements, which entered into force on 1 January 2011, by submitting TIR Electronic Pre-Declarations to Customs offices of entry/departure in a simple, standardised way.The IRU TIR-EPD is also fully compliant with the World Customs Organisation's Framework of Standards.
The air waybill is a document of carriage which is issued by airlines to shippers of cargo. The conditions under which it is issued is the Warsaw Convention, which was signed in Warsaw on 12th October 1929. This was amended at the Hague (Netherlands) on 28th September 1955 and was further amended by the Montreal Convention at Montreal on 28th May 1999 effectively unifying certain rules from the latter.
An air waybill is not a document of title. The document often travels forward with the goods allowing immediate release of the goods into the consignee's charge for subsequent customs clearance and delivery.
On 16th March 2008, resolution 600b became effective on 17 March 2008, rescinding Resolution 600b(II) on the same day, with the following conditions of contract and notices to be included on every Air waybill;
Notice appearing on the face of an Air Waybill
Conditions of contract on the reverse of the Air Waybill - (Carrier's Limitation of liability)
Both the Notice and Conditions of Contract have a bearing on those operators who specialise in Air cargo Road Transport. Further information relating to Air Waybills can be obtained from IATA.
The air waybill has several purposes;
- it is evidence of a contract of carriage
- it proves receipt of goods for shipment
- it is a freight bill
The Warsaw Convention requires that the air waybill is completed in at least three parts;
- for the carrier (signed by the consignor);
- for the consignee (signed by the consignor and carrier);
- for the consignor (signed by the carrier).
The basic information to be shown on the air waybill is as follows;
- shipper's name and address;
- consignee's name and address;
- customs reference/status: the air waybill is an approved skeleton pre-entry document;
- agent's IATA code;
- airport of departure and destination;
- first carrier;
- value of goods and currency;
- description of goods, dimensions, commodity code, rate class, chargeable weight and freight rate;
- freight charges (prepaid or payable at destination);
- ancillary charges payable.
The IATA Standard Air Waybill is used by all IATA carriers (those belonging to the International Air Transport Association) and it embodies standard conditions associated to those set out in the Warsaw Convention. When issued by an airline, the air waybill carries a unique reference number which commences with a carrier prefix. The air waybill number is the key to tracing the flight details of the consignment in question and must be quoted at all times when information is being requested.
Bill of Lading
Consideration of the bill of lading as a document relating to the contract of carriage between shipper and ship owner, the responsibilities and liabilities of each party, has been set out in Conventions (Hague-Visby Rules and Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1971).
There are three essential elements to an ocean bill of lading issued by a shipping line and covering the carriage of goods by sea, which are;
- it is evidence that a contract of carriage exists between shipper (exporter) and ship owner
- it is a receipt for goods, showing prima facie that they have been received into the charge of a carrier
- it is a document of title which allows title to the goods to be transferred by endorsement and delivery of the bill of lading. (Note: transfer of title to the goods is not synonymous with transfer of property. Whoever holds the bill of lading may take delivery of the goods, but property will pass when buyer and seller intend it should do so under a contract of sale, usually when payment is effected.)
Taken together, these three elements show the importance of the bill of lading to commerce over the years. With the bill of lading showing that a contract of carriage exists and that the goods have been received by the carrier, a buyer and his bank are assured that the despatch of goods according to the contract of sale is under way. Equally an exporter, holding a bill of lading as title to the goods, may, by choosing when to pass the bill to the buyer, control when the latter takes delivery of the goods. Thus the bill of lading becomes an essential element in controlling payment procedures in international trade.
A number of different types of bills of lading are available to exporters, according to the type of service being used. Furthermore, a number of different clausings are applicable to bills of lading and these are considered under 'Clean bills and claused bills', following the details which must be shown in the bill of lading.
As already mentioned in the introduction, the above content is but a brief overview of the documents laid out and merely scratches the surface of what are complex legal documents. The links below offer access to further reading on the above.
HM Revenue & Customs
World Trade Organisation
International Chamber of Commerce
IATA (International Air Transport Association)