Licences: export, trade control and transhipment

This detailed guidance was withdrawn on 15 December 2014

This page has been archived so that guidance is not duplicated on GOV.UK. Please use the guidance for exporters.

Overview of all licence types issued by the Export Control Organisation that you can apply or register for to export controlled military or dual-use items.


If you export military or dual-use Items that are controlled for export purposes - either because they are listed on a UK Strategic Export Control List, listed in a specific sanctions list or controlled under the End-Use Controls - then you will need to apply for an appropriate licence from the UK’s Export Control Organisation (ECO).

There are a number of differing licence types which might provide you with appropriate licensing coverage for your export or trading activities, as long as you can meet all relevant terms and conditions.

In this guide you can access more information on the range and types of licences available - including general differences and how and when to use them. You can also find out about useful tools and systems to assist you in applying for a licence.

Open General Licences

Open General Licences (OGLs) (also known as Open General Export Licences or OGELs) are the most flexible licence type issued by the ECO for the control of ‘strategic’ military and dual-use items. Using them could potentially save you both time and money. If you can meet the all the terms and conditions of a relevant OGL you should consider using one before considering other licensing options..  

OGLs are pre-published licences available in the public domain. They allow the export of less restricted items to less restricted destinations but that still require an export licence prior to shipment.

Each OGL details specific terms and conditions of use, including the items and destinations permitted for export by the licence.

There are different types of OGLs for export and trade control purposes. OGLs provide licensing coverage for specified military, dual-use, transhipment and other items.

The EU also publishes a number of EU General Export Authorisations (EU GEAs). These licences are the EU equivalent of the UK’s published OGLs. They provide licensing coverage for specified dual-use items and technology to listed destinations by any exporter providing the licence terms and conditions are met.

For more information see the guides on:

Registering for and using an OGL

To use any OGL you will first need to adhere to all the specified terms and conditions and know the Control List entry reference number or ‘rating’ of your items. If you are unsure of the ‘rating’ of a particular item, you can get further advice in the guide on strategic exports: when to request an export licence. You might also find it helpful to use the OGEL Checker database in checking through the conditions of an OGL.

Once you have determined that you can meet all OGL terms and conditions then you need to register to use the licence using ECO’s export licensing database, SPIRE.

You will need to quote the unique OGL reference number and exact title when using the licence.

All OGL holders are subject to regular compliance audits conducted by ECO Compliance Officers. For more information see the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

Keeping informed of OGL updates

You should be aware that OGLs are subject to amendments from time to time. For details of recent amendments please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notice to exporters.

Standard Individual Export Licences

A Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL) allows the export of specific items to a specific destination and to a stated consignee and/or end-user, up to the quantity and value described on the licence.

A SIEL is the main licence type issued by the ECO for controlled military and dual-use items. If your items are controlled - either because they are listed on a Control List or on the grounds of end-use - but you are unable to meet the terms of an OGL, then you will need to apply for a SIEL.

Open Individual Export Licences

An Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) is specific to an individual company and covers multiple shipments of specific goods to multiple destinations. There are different types of OIELs including military/dual use, media, dealer-to-dealer and UK continental shelf OIELs.

OIELs are a concessionary form of licence issued to exporters with a proven track record in dealing in controlled goods.

Global Project Licences

The Global Project Licence (GPL) simplifies the arrangements for licensing military goods and technologies between countries who are partners in a framework agreement and who are participating in collaborative defence projects. The countries concerned are the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain and Germany. A GPL is very similar to an OIEL in terms of the application and the resulting licence.

Trade Control Licences

Trade Control Licences authorise the trading of either military goods or dual-use goods between one overseas country and another - commonly referred to as trafficking and brokering. There are 3 types of Trade Control Licences:

  • Open General Trade Control Licences (OGTCLs) allow the trading of specific items between specific destinations by any trader
  • Standard Individual Trade Control Licence (SITCL) - specific to a named trader and covers involvement in the trading of a set quantity of specific goods
  • Open Individual Trade Control Licence (OITCL) - specific to a named trader and covers involvement in the trading of specific goods between overseas sources and overseas destination countries and/or specified consignor(s), consignee(s) and end-user(s)

Transhipment Licences

A Transhipment Licence is required to permit certain goods being transhipped or transiting through the UK. There are 4 Open General Transhipment Licences (OGTLs) which you may be entitled to use if you can meet all the specified terms and conditions. Alternatively, you may need to apply for a Standard Individual Transhipment Licence (SITL).

Export Control Organisation online services

The ECO has several tools available to exporters to help classify goods for export and comply with export control regulations.


The SPIRE system is on the ECO’s online export licensing. You can use SPIRE to apply or register for relevant export licences and also the seperate Ministry of Defence administered F680 application. Any communication in relation to issuing your licence will be issued via SPIRE and you will receive any licence approval via your system workbasket.

See SPIRE: an overview.

Control List Classification Search Tool

This tool is designed to help you search the SPIRE database for any previous goods ‘rating’ assessments made by the ECO technical assessment unit. By entering a short keyword to describe your goods, software or technology, you can get an indication of possible relevant classifications on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists. You can follow up these suggestions by looking directly at the relevant control entries or by using Goods Checker (see below) to determine whether your item is controlled and if you need to apply for a licence.

Goods Checker

The ECO Goods Checker is a web-based search tool that can help you decide whether your goods, software or technology are controlled by UK or European Community strategic export control legislation.

You can search the database by product, by entering a careful general description of your goods to find the entry (known as the ‘rating’) in the Control Lists for a selected item.

Use the Goods Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required).

Open General Export Licence (OGEL) Checker

The ECO OGEL Checker is a web-based search tool to help exporters find out whether there are any OGELs they may be able to use when exporting their goods, software or technology.

Use the OGEL Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required).

Further information

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Contact details for the Export Control Organisation

Goods Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required)

OGEL Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required)