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HMRC internal manual

Export Procedures

HM Revenue & Customs
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Guidance on other procedures: disaster relief / humanitarian aid

The UK puts into practice a recommendation of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) aimed at speeding up the forwarding of relief consignments in the event of disasters. In the case of exports, the recommendation provides for:

  • official certification of lists of the contents of relief consignments, and
  • the securing of goods under customs seals, to aid the passage of the goods through the territories of other signatory countries and admission of the goods into the countries of destination.

The term ‘disaster’ is to be taken to include natural disasters eg floods, earthquakes and similar catastrophes.

Action is to be taken under these arrangements only at the request of exporters or their agents. The arrangements apply to goods of all kinds except tobacco products and alcoholic liquor but they are normally expected to cover:

  • food
  • medicines
  • clothing
  • bedding
  • tents
  • prefabricated buildings, and
  • other emergency items.

The arrangements do not affect normal customs export documentation. Pre entry, export licensing or other export restrictions requirements continue to apply. In cases when humanitarian goods are presented for export without a licence and there is no evidence of a deliberate attempt to evade the controls, you should normally only detain the goods until the exporter obtains a licence, rather than moving to seizure.

On each occasion the exporter or agent is to make a formal application to Customs at the port for the certification and sealing of the goods to be exported. The exporter is to supply a list of the goods to be exported, clearly indicating the place and organisation to which the consignment is being sent. It is the exporter’s responsibility to ensure that a sufficient number of copies of the list are provided for delivery to customs authorities in the countries of transit and destination.

Consignments of goods (eg second hand clothing and bedding) to countries which although they have not suffered a recent disaster are undergoing a period of hardship or economic difficulty should be expedited but should not circumvent normal freight controls. The procedures covering Disaster relief arrangements should be followed where requested by the exporter or their representative.