Check your arrival and departure messages are correct

Find out how to complete export arrival and departure messages correctly and what happens when some of the more common mistakes are made.

Most exports are delivered to inventory linked electronic port systems or non-inventory linked ports with approved loaders. Both have electronic links to Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF).

For goods declared for export, input of the electronic arrival message to CHIEF completes presentation of the goods so that they may be cleared for the export procedure.

For UK ports with no electronic links to CHIEF, HMRC will access CHIEF on your behalf, upon receipt of a C1601 form.

All export declarations must be ‘arrived’ in the UK on CHIEF. Failure to ‘arrive’ export declarations on the system will cause delays because your goods will not be allowed to leave the UK. Goods must not be shipped, or be loaded to be shipped without permission to progress granted from customs.

Inputting arrival messages

Inputting the arrival message AEAL

You must make arrival messages at the port or airport. These must be sent to CHIEF with the following information:

  • CHIEF Reference (entry processing unit, entry number and date) or unique consignment reference (UCR) (master unique consignment reference (MUCR) or declaration unique consignment reference number (DUCR)), make sure the correct DUCR reference number, inventory reference or MUCR is input
  • location of goods
  • date and time of arrival

The ‘Location of Goods’ field (30) must show the appropriate CHIEF Freight Location code, and when one has been issued. It must also have the relevant SHED (a place customs inspect goods) code for inventory linked premises and location code for non-inventory linked premises.

If the arrival message has been input fully and correctly, CHIEF will proceed directly to acceptance and automated risk analysis.

CHIEF will then indicate whether the goods have been given clearance to be exported or HMRC may indicate that the goods should not be shipped, pending further enquiries or submission of further paperwork or the need for a physical check. If, at the end of the further checks process, HMRC or Border Force are satisfied that all is in order, HMRC will grant permission to progress and CHIEF will indicate that the goods can then be shipped.

Arrival of goods at a non-inventory linked location

For UK locations, where CHIEF arrival facilities are not available, an approved loader for the location can request that HMRC input the goods as ‘arrived’ on the system using form C1601.

If this is successful, the arrival message will be entered onto CHIEF.

Making unauthorised removals

If you fail to wait for HMRC or UK Border Force to finalise their enquiries and ship the goods, you have made an unauthorised removal. This is a serious breach of legislation, particularly if the goods are destined for a sensitive destination under sanctions or embargos.

Incorrect use of the loader CHIEF badge

If you’re an approved loader, you must use your loader badge with the following CHIEF transactions:

  • AEAL (Export Arrival)
  • AEDL (Export Departure)
  • AEAC (Export Association)

These transactions relate to the movement of consignments covered by CHIEF export declarations and should only be used at UK frontier locations that are not currently operating an export inventory linking system. There are also loader badges that are provided by an approved Community System Provider.

When you carry out any of these transactions on CHIEF, they should be accurate and a timely reflection of real time events relating to export consignments. Where your company does not have physical control of the consignment or export means of transport, you must hold supporting records provided to you by companies that do, so they’re available when HMRC carry out assurance activity.

Using the wrong reference number for arrival and departure messages

It is important that the arrival or departure message is entered using the correct reference number given by the export declarant. This can be either:

  • MUCR or DUCR
  • customs entry number (Entry Processing Unit, CHIEF entry number and date of entry)

You must make sure you type the UCR correctly. You must not use a previous UCR. If the wrong reference number is used the arrival or departure message will not be recorded against the correct export declaration. This means that the appropriate export declaration for the goods will not be cleared by customs for the export procedure. We will not be able to trace shipments through your books and CHIEF records, assure the business and allow official evidence for UK exporters to zero rate their goods for VAT.

If you notify use of an arrival through an inventory booking reference, these should be verified with the export declarants to make sure they are matched to the correct CHIEF record. If the reference number covering the goods is entered on CHIEF and CHIEF does not accept the details, the reference number should be verified with the declarant.

Failure to input arrival messages

Receiving a P9 deletion warning report

If you have input export data onto CHIEF the system expects further action to be taken. If no arrival message is sent, we will issue an automated CHIEF report (P9) after 22 days to the export declarant placing the data on CHIEF.

If you do not follow up P9 reports this will prevent you from zero rating your exports for VAT, receiving Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) refunds or export reliefs, or from obtaining returned goods relief if the goods are re-imported. It may also prevent electronic discharge of an Export Control System (ECS) movement where goods have travelled through another member state.

Goods shipped without an arrival message will not have permission to progress. We may consider a ‘retrospective arrival’ on receipt of an application form C1603 and explanation of the reason for non-compliance and certified copy of the bill of loading or airway bill. This form cannot be used for indirect exports through another member state.

Retrospective arrivals are the subject of increased scrutiny by HMRC to improve the arrivals process and encourage businesses to work with HMRC and comply with their requirements. This should reduce the frequency of exports leaving the UK or EU without a timely export declaration, presentation and customs clearance.

Failure to ‘arrive’ an indirect export before goods leave the UK

The failure to arrive an export declaration, where the goods are exiting by another member state, will mean that there will be no electronic message sent from CHIEF to ECS to notify the customs office of exit in the EU member state that the goods are on their way.

UK indirect exports are only visible on ECS at the EU Office of Exit if they’ve previously been arrived on CHIEF at the UK Office of Export and have been given permission to progress by HMRC.

If this does not happen, the Office of Exit will not be able to view the export transaction via ECS. This will be flagged up as irregular by the customs office of exit in EU member states and in some instances the goods may be sent back to the UK for ‘presentation’ and clearance.

Printing only the export accompanying document does not enable customs at the EU Office of Exit to clear the goods efficiently.

Inputting departure messages

Departure message AEDL

Use of this transaction constitutes the same form of declaration as the submission of HMRC form C1602. It is used to further process a UCR once a previously arrived consignment has been loaded onto a vessel, which has now directly departed from the UK .

You will need to include the following 6 items on your departure message:

  • DUCR or MUCR
  • location of goods
  • name of vessel
  • the actual date of export
  • nationality of border transport
  • mode of transport

If transport details on the departure messages are not fully completed, by default this informs us that you intend to record the export as being aborted or frustrated and withdraw them inland. You will need to contact HMRC’s National clearance hub and get Customs permission, before withdrawing any goods from the port.

You will not be able to VAT zero rate your goods or claim relief from customs special procedures with duty liabilities impact, if departure has not been finalised.

Indirect exports travelling via another member state before departing the EU, will need to be departed by the office of Exit in that member state.

Departing goods at a non-inventory linked location

For UK locations, where commercial CHIEF facilities are not available you can depart goods if you are an approved loader for the location or where this is not available, use form C1602 to request HMRC input a departure message.

Further information

Contact the Customs International Trade (CIT) helpline for more information.

You can also submit a customs general enquiry form.

Published 6 August 2020
Last updated 26 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. The further information section has been updated with new contact details.

  2. First published.