Transit 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This detailed guidance was withdrawn on 15 December 2014

This page has been archived so that guidance is not duplicated on GOV.UK.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.

Transit and transhipment controls allow non-controlled goods or goods approved in the originating country, to pass through the UK


For many years the UK has had controls in place on goods transiting or transhipping the UK.

The UK’s transit and transhipment legislation is designed to facilitate legitimate trade by allowing non-controlled goods or goods which have been appropriately approved in the originating country, to pass through the UK. At the same time, it enables the UK to intervene, and potentially halt, the onward movement of goods in the case of concerns surrounding either the export or destination.

The controls also work on the basis of an exemption for certain controlled goods being transited or transhipped, but only if specific conditions have been met. The exemption does not apply to a range of highly sensitive goods and destination countries.

The transit and transhipment controls form a part of the UK’s strategic export control legislation as detailed in the Export Control Order 2008. Within this legislation, transit and transhipment is categorised along the same lines as the Trade Controls - on the basis of a three tier goods categorisation of sensitive controlled goods.

These changes were introduced following a public consultation and review of export control legislation in 2007. The amended legislation came into effect on 6 April 2009.

Controls on transit and transhipment

Strategic export control legislation may potentially impact on controlled goods being either transited or transhipped through the UK.

Do I need a transhipment licence?

Transit and transhipment controls work on the basis of an exemption, which means that most controlled military and dual-use goods are eligible to transit or tranship through the UK en route to another overseas destination without needing a transhipment licence.

This exemption is dependent on meeting three specified conditions. If the conditions cannot be met then a licence is required. These conditions relate to where the goods are kept whilst in the UK, whether the destination was set from the original exporting country (and not amended en-route), and that the export laws and regulations of the original country were met when exported.

In some cases, a transit or transhipment licence will be definitely required. This is in cases where either the goods, the destination country or a combination of these factors generate a sufficient degree of risk.

In certain circumstances, open licence coverage is available - where this is not the case, a Standard Individual Transhipment Licence (SITL) will be required. For more information, see the guide on licences: export, trade control and transhipment.

Further information

The Export Control Organisation (ECO) has produced further guidance to assist those individuals and companies who are or may become involved in arranging the transit and transhipment of goods through the UK to understand when a licence will be required.

The guidance includes information on the following:

  • definition of transit and transhipment activities
  • the new controls on transit and transhipment
  • how to decide whether a transit or transhipment licence is needed
  • types of licences and when and how to apply for them
  • enforcement of the controls
  • frequently asked questions
  • when a transit or transhipment licence is needed (flowchart)
  • countries and destinations subject to stricter export or trade controls
  • transit and transhipment legislation

Download the supplementary guidance note on trade ‘transit and transhipment’ controls

You can also find related guidance on:

Further information

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Goods Checker on the ECO checker website (registration required)