Export Control System (ECS): supporting guidance

Understand how the European system for control of indirect exports operates in the UK.

Export Control System

The Export Control System (ECS) is the EU system for the control of indirect exports, such as export consignments declared for export at a location in one member state that then exit the EU via another member state. There’s more detail in Notice 275 on customs export procedures.

ECS works alongside the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to pass messages between member states.

You still need other export control documents.

Offices of Exit and Export

The office of exit ensures the goods have left the EU and advises the office of export. If the office of exit is in the UK, an ‘exit results’ message (IE518) is sent to the office of export.

The office of export ensures all goods are recorded electronically, risk assessed and the appropriate information is sent to the office of exit. Where the office of export is in the UK, a ‘goods are on their way’ message (IE501) is sent to the office of exit.

The office of export must conduct a risk analysis on each export and where necessary, it will stop export movements. In other cases the results of the analysis will be sent to the office of exit in the IE501 ‘goods are on their way’ message.

EORI number

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number is assigned by a customs authority in a member state to economic operators (businesses or persons). It’s used in all communications with EU customs.

 Safety and Security data

Fiscal data from the Single Administrative Document (SAD) and safety and security data are input into one ‘combined’ declaration in the UK. For exports, you’ll not be able to submit a fiscal only declaration and a separate export summary declaration.

Master Reference Number

A Master Reference Number (MRN) is generated by CHIEF for each direct or indirect export declaration. It’s used to identify the consignment within the EU and at the office of exit.

For indirect exports the MRN (and bar code) should be included on a paper copy of the Export Accompanying Document (EAD) which accompanies the goods to the office of exit.

Authorised Economic Operator

Traders who want to apply to become an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO), can read more information in Notice 117.

Export Accompanying Document

Under current EU legislation indirect exports must be accompanied by an EAD to the office of exit. The EAD contains the MRN and bar code of the consignment of goods and must be presented at the office of exit with the goods before leaving the EU.

The new Union Customs Code (UCC) legislation comes into force on the 1 May 2016. Under the UCC when an indirect export is presented at the office of exit the person presenting the consignment must provide the MRN of the export declaration. There is no obligation to provide a paper EAD.

There will be a transition period up to the year 2020 for businesses and the UK to fully implement the requirements of the UCC legislation and its related IT systems. During this transition period you should continue to take a paper copy of the EAD to the office of exit to enable your goods to be exported from the EU.

For specimens and printing specifications and guidelines for the EAD form see the explanatory notes part 1 and part 2.

Exit Summary Declaration

An Exit Summary Declaration (EXS) or ‘pure’ safety and security declaration is only required if goods are not covered by a CHIEF export declaration containing safety and security data. For example, where an empty container is being returned under a transport contract to the shipper. Submit an EXS at the office of exit. Notice 275 on customs export procedures has further information.

Operating Single Transport Contract and ECS

Exporters (or their agents) need to ‘claim’ Single Transport Contract (STC) on their export declaration. In the UK this is done by inserting an Additional Information (AI) code ‘STC99’ in box 44 of the combined declaration and leaving box 29 (office of exit) blank.

Exporters (or their declarants) need to confirm with their freight forwarders or ocean carriers whether their goods travel under STC arrangements so that STC can be claimed on the export declaration. See Notice 275 on customs export procedures.

A STC allows an indirect export to be treated as a direct export. The member state of export operates as both office of export and office of exit for the consignment. A STC can only be claimed where the export is covered by a through airway bill or through bill of lading. A STC consignment can’t exit the EU by road transport.

For goods being declared in the UK and leaving via another member state , an IE501 ‘goods are on their way’ message will not be sent to the office of exit in the member state concerned.

Some member states may wish to check the goods are legitimately travelling under STC if goods will pass through a member state by road on their way to the ‘actual’ point of exit from the EU.

Any consignments carried under STC should have the MRN available for inspection by customs officers at the actual point of exit in another member state.

ECS and Transit procedures

There may be occasions where an export has to move under the transit procedure.

All goods for export must obtain customs clearance or ’Permission to Progress’ (P2P) from CHIEF. Where it’s required that the goods must remain under customs control on one of the transit procedures they must subsequently be declared to the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS) system.

Free circulation goods that are not in Excise Duty suspension

When entering goods for export onto the CHIEF system the exporter/declarant should input the AI code (TRANS) into Box 44 of the export declaration. Box 29 (office of exit) should not be completed for these movements.

On the NCTS once a P2P has been received from CHIEF a Community transit (CT) declaration (T2) should be input onto NCTS. Safety and security data should be provided on the export declaration.

The MRN from the export declaration should be input into Box 40/44 (Produced certificates/previous references) of the NCTS declaration. This is achieved by selecting the ‘zzz other’ entry option from the ‘type’ field. The export MRN can then be entered in the ’Document reference’ box.

More details on the export and transit process to follow for other types of exports including duty suspended movements can be found in Customs Information Paper 18 (2015): removing goods from the Community under a Transit procedure.

The UK tariff volume 3 exports paragraph 9.9 is being updated to reflect these procedures.

Technical Interface Specification (TIS)

For more information on direct trader input to CHIEF and inventory system linking see the Technical Interface Specification (TIS) guides.

Published 5 July 2013
Last updated 5 April 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updates made to reflect changes resulting from the introduction of the Union Customs Code.

  2. First published.