Your In-Brief Guide To Shipping International Freight In, Out And Around The EU

Your In-Brief Guide to Shipping International Freight In, Out and Around the EU

by Paul Rehmet — 4 years ago in Supply Chain Management 4 min. read
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Moving goods across international borders can be complex, and regulations, difficult to navigate. Those intending to move goods into or from Europe will be pleased to know that it is relatively straightforward to do so. One set of straightforward rules and regulations applies across all EU member states, which is particularly useful if you intend to export to multiple EU countries.

If you’re about to ship freight to, from or around the EU for the first time, or are considering it, you’ll find this guide really helpful. Here we give you the basics on customs, standard procedures, restrictions, laws and the practicalities of shipping to and from all EU member states.


Air freight or Ocean Freight: Some Interesting Facts

If your shipment is too large to send via a courier, you’ll either be looking for an air or ocean freight option. There are many very busy air and sea freight routes in and out of the EU, which means there are a huge variety of options available to importers and exporters.

Maritime ports in the EU handle over 4 billion tonnes of freight per year. The three busiest ports are Rotterdam, Antwerpen and Hamburg. The Netherlands handles as much as 35 tonnes of freight per inhabitant per year through Rotterdam and other ports, whereas Poland handles just two. The narrow English Channel between the UK and France is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

In terms of air freight, Germany is the biggest player. It handles around 4.8 million tonnes of air freight per year, which is more than a quarter of the total for the EU. Its busiest airport for freight is Frankfurt. However, the EU’s biggest single airport for freight and mail handling is Paris Charles de Gaulle. Air freight is very popular for shipping goods around the EU.

Some of the busiest ocean routes in, out of and around the EU connect: Genoa in Italy to North Africa and the Middle East; Bremerhaven in Germany to the east coast of the USA, and Southampton in the UK with mainland Europe.
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EU Import Laws

Whether you choose to ship via the Netherlands, France, Germany or any of the other EU member states, you will need to abide by EU laws that restrict or prohibit certain goods coming in. These rules are in place to protect human and animal health, the environment, and consumer rights.

Many products fall under the control of these laws and you may need further permits, documentation, authorizations or certifications to proceed with transit. These items include:

  • Medicinal products
  • Chemicals
  • Steel or iron products
  • Clothing and textiles
  • Vegetables and fruits

For more information, you should consult the TARIC database. This multilingual database is provided by the Taxation and Customs Union branch of the European Commission. It is a definitive guide to all prohibitions, quantitative limits, and controls relating to the import and export of goods into and from the EU.

EU Export Laws

EU export laws are less restrictive. Export licenses are generally only required for shipments that include weapons and other goods for military use, or dual-use technology which could be used by civilians or the military.
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The Customs Union

The EU is a Customs Union, meaning that all member countries are as one for customs purposes. There are also no customs duties payable when moving goods between one member state and another.

It also means there are universal tariffs for imports into anywhere in the EU from outside the EU. So, if you are shipping from Singapore, for instance, you will pay the same tariffs whether you choose to send your goods to Hamburg, Rotterdam or Paris. Once your goods have entered the EU, you will not pay additional tariffs to send them onto a different member state, such as Belgium, Poland or Italy.

Remember that not all European countries are part of the EU and the Customs Union, most notably Norway and Switzerland. Presently, the UK is negotiating its exit from the EU so it is vital to do research and get up-to-date information if you plan to send goods to the UK.
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Customs and Export Declarations

All EU member states use a standard set of customs procedures set by EU law that apply to any shipments going in or out of the EU. These regulations apply whether you are in need of international shipping from Germany or are bringing goods from China into France.

●      Exports

If you are taking goods out of the EU, you will need an EORI number. This is effectively a registration and identification number that helps track goods and provides statistics.  You can apply for an EORI number from your national customs office within the EU.

Once you have this number, you are free to export goods outside the EU. However, you will need to fill in an export declaration for each shipment weighing more than 1,000 kg or having a value of more than 1,000 Euros.

●      Imports

To meet EU law, all those intending to send goods into the EU must complete a customs declaration. This can be done electronically or on paper. There are a few rules and standard procedures to follow:

  • Your carrier will usually lodge the declaration. However, you are responsible for providing the correct information.
  • The declaration must be lodged in advance. For ocean freight, the declaration must be made at least 24 hours before your goods are loaded. For long-haul air freight, the declaration must be made at least four hours before departure.
  • You must provide two copies of the commercial invoice for your goods, plus any other documentation required by law relating to the type of goods you are moving.
  • If you are moving goods across country borders within the EU, you will not need to fill in any further declarations.
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International Shipping Simplified

While shipping to, from and around the EU is fairly straightforward, there are ways to further lower the stress of organizing international shipments. Try using a web-based freight-forwarding platform where you can get quick freight quotes online for shipments from anywhere in the world to anywhere else, compare air or sea prices, and book within minutes. Once your shipment is on its way, track its journey and be reassured to see it reach its destination.

Paul Rehmet

As Chief Product Officer for Shipa Freight, Paul Rehmet is responsible for translating the vision of Shipa Freight into an easy-to-use online freight platform for our customers. Formerly Vice President of Digital Marketing for Agility, Paul managed Agility's website, mobile apps, content marketing and online advertising campaigns. In his 25-year career, Paul has held various technology leadership positions with early-stage startups and Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Destiny Web Solutions, and US Airways. Paul has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brown University. Paul is based in Philadelphia.

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