Guidance

Report goods arriving at a UK port on a commercial vessel

If you’re the ships’ master (or their agent) of a commercial vessel, you will need to report any goods that are arriving on your vessel at a UK port.

If you’re the ships’ master of a commercial vessel you must report any goods arriving at a UK port, including the Isle of Man.

This includes vessels:

  • arriving and working at offshore installations
  • that were previously part of a Regular Shipping Service (RSS)

You’re also responsible for telling us in advance if you have on board:

  • passengers who are going to disembark
  • crew members who will be paid off

We may need to ask questions and examine their baggage and any articles they may be carrying. If we are told in advance, Border Force can be available to give them clearance.

Check how to get clearance from customs when your vessel leaves a UK port.

When to report

You will need to report goods:

  • within 3 hours of the vessel reaching its berth (if the designated place is closed, within 1 hour of its opening)
  • 24 hours after the vessel’s arrival within port limits if it is still at anchor or has not yet reached its berth (an agent may apply for an extension if circumstances warrant for example, adverse weather conditions)
  • when requested by an officer visiting your vessel

What reports to send

You need to give the following report forms. You will be told if you need to provide an extra copy of any of the forms.

There are heavy penalties for making a false declaration and the person signing the forms is declaring that the information entered, and accompanying forms are true and complete.

General declaration

You must complete a general declaration using the International Maritime Organization (IMO) FAL form 1 (C94).

Box 13 of this form should contain a description of cargo, where this can be expressed in a short phrase (usually where the cargo is a single bulk commodity).

Where a separate cargo declaration (for example, a manifest) is submitted, box 13 should contain details of any unmanifested items, such as small packages and unaccompanied baggage in charge of the master, livestock and birds.

Cargo declaration or manifest

The cargo declaration normally consists of the manifest, but other commercial or administrative documents relating to the goods and containing the necessary particulars for each consignment may be accepted.

Where appropriate, the manifest or other commercial or administrative documents should include the following for each consignment:

  • maritime transport document reference, for example, the bill of lading number
  • container identification and vehicle registration number
  • number, kind, marks and numbers of the packages
  • description and gross weight and volume of the goods
  • port or place where the goods were loaded onto the vessel
  • original port or place of shipment for goods on a through maritime transport document

Declaration wording I declare to the best of my knowledge, that these cargo details are correct for the cargo carried in ……..……… (name of vessel) which are contained in this/these document(s) consisting of………. (number) …………..… page(s).

Signed………………………………………..Master/Authorised person

Dated………………………………………….

If ports operate a computerised inventory control system, a cargo declaration can be made by computer at these ports. The words ‘Declaration of cargo by computer’ must be shown in box 13 of the IMO FAL form 1 (C94).

If there is no manifest or other suitable document, we will accept your cargo declaration on the IMO FAL form 2 from the International Maritime Organization website.

Shipping companies can choose to include details of the customs status of the goods carried on the vessel on their cargo manifest. This saves their customers from having to provide separate evidence of status for those goods.

An account of stores held on board

For excise goods (alcohol and tobacco) there is no need to complete form IMO FAL3 (C95) providing you keep a ships stores account containing details of all surplus stores held on board. This account must be provided to HMRC or Border Force on request. You can find out more information in Notice 69a.

Crew’s effects declaration

You must use the IMO FAL form 4 (C96) to give information relating to crew’s effects.

Each member of the crew is only required to complete this form in respect of any effects that are in excess of their traveller’s allowance or subject to prohibitions or restrictions. The excess goods declared cannot be landed in the UK unless duty is paid and any licensing requirements are fulfilled regarding restricted goods.

If a crew member is being paid off or going on leave, goods in excess of their allowance or restricted goods with appropriate documents must be produced to a Border Force officer (if requested). The relevant duties and taxes must always be paid.

You must keep the IMO FAL form 4 (C96) on board for inspection purposes, so you do not need to submit it in advance. But the relevant box should be ticked on the IMO FAL form 1 (C94) to indicate that a crew member’s effects form should be made available on demand.

If you’re carrying 12 or fewer passengers

You must complete IMO FAL form 5 (C97) and IMO FAL form 6 (C98).

Firearms

Firearms must not be unloaded from a vessel without the necessary licence.

If firearms are:

  • being carried in the crew’s effects this must be recorded in the ‘remarks’ box of the IMO FAL form 1 (C94), and on the IMO FAL form 4 (C96)
  • in the ship’s stores they must be recorded on the IMO FAL form 3 (C95)

How to send a report

You can send reports to the National Ship’s Reports and Compliance Team by email, fax or by post (if original documents are called for):

National Ship's Reports and Compliance Team
Ralli Quays
3 Stanley Street
Salford
Manchester
M60 9LA

Telephone: 0300 3227900 and select option 4

Fax: 0800 4960699

Email: shipsreports@hmrc.gov.uk

Opening hours: Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 8am to 4pm.

If you’re trying to send reports to the National Ship’s Reports and Compliance Team outside normal office hours, the master or agent should:

  1. Phone the National Clearance Hub to advise that they are about to submit a clearance request.

  2. Email shipsreports@hmrc.gov.uk or fax copies of the necessary forms to the National Clearance Hub.

Find out how to contact the National Clearance Hub.

A shipping agent usually lodges the report on the master’s behalf.

Simplified reporting for regular shipping

Vessels that have a predictable pattern and duration of movement (such as dredgers, rig supply and safety vessels and ferries) can apply for:

  • an omnibus clearance (covering a fixed time period and specified voyages)
  • advance clearance (where details of the next voyages are already known)

Applications to operate these simplified reporting arrangements should be made in advance.

The application must be made in writing to the National Ship’s Reports and Compliance Team at the address above.

You can contact them to find out what information you need to provide.

Published 22 December 2020
Last updated 12 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Information about 'an account of stores held on board' has been updated.

  2. First published.