Stages of Import

There are six stages in the import process by sea or air in respect of imports from outside the EU;

  • the advance provision of information;
  • the report of the arrival of means of transport;
  • the presentation of the goods;
  • the declaration of the goods;
  • the examination of the goods;
  • the release of the goods;

Advance Notice

The advance notification by ships and aeroplanes is undertaken by submission of an entry summary declaration to the customs at the first port or airport of entry. The Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) is lodged at the first point of entry into the EU, before the arrival of goods or unloading of container cargo in deep-sea traffic. The EMS must be lodged electronically and contain specified information.

The Irish customs are responsible for the safety and security arrangements involving the ENS declaration where goods arrive from outside the EU. The ENS is lodged with the import control section of customs. The contents of the ENS is specified by law.

Certain goods are exempted from ENS including

  • letters, postcards;
  • goods in travellers’ personal baggage and luggage;
  • goods declared by going through the red/green channel in an airport;
  • goods in respect of which an oral declaration is permitted;
  • goods covered by an ATA or CPD carnet;
  • goods on regular shipping services, duly certified carries between EU Ports;
  • goods whose intrinsic value does not exceed €22

An ENS is not required in respect in respect of importations from certain countries with which there is a direct agreement such as Switzerland and Norway and Liechtenstein.

Authorised economic operators and certain others holding equivalent certificates may lodge an ENS with reduced data.

The Entry Summary Declaration is usually waived where the goods are covered by a customs declaration (made prior to movement of the goods.)

Cargo Manifest

The cargo manifest is required in respect of all ships and aircraft, apart from passenger aircraft only. It must list all cargo on the ship or aircraft. The cargo manifest may comprise a list of goods in the bills of lading and / or the air waybills.  The contents of the cargo manifest are set by law and includes details of the

  • vessel,
  • place and time of loading,
  • references to the bills of lading,
  • number, descriptions, marks and reference numbers of packages,
  • normal trade description of goods,
  • gross weight and
  • identification numbers were applicable

Similar information is required in respect of an EU arrival with certain modifications. The principal purpose is to ensure the Community (EU) status of the goods or the applicability of the relevant transit arrangements within the EU.

Even where Community goods only are carried, the manifest will be required to determine whether prohibited or restricted goods have arrived.  Vessels from within the EU which are authorised regular shipping services need not report.

In the case of an authorised operator using regular shipping services, it is presumed that the goods are Community goods or are moving under a transit procedure.

The Ship’s Report

The ship’s report must show particulars of all cargo. Passengers’ bags need not be included. A general description of the goods concerned is sufficient for the report. Goods remaining on board for further export to the EU need not be broken down in the same detail.

The ship may be boarded, or local arrangements may be made. Where the ship is boarded, an examination may be made on the basis of risk analysis.

A certificate of pratique (health clearance) issued in the previous port must be produced in the case of ships arriving from outside the EU.

The reports must contain other details, which are not relevant to customs and importing

Goods declared to customs which are subject to excise are declared on the AEP system.

There are some exemptions and limitations on the obligation to report. Fishing boats arriving from outside the EU must generally report. Yachts arriving from outside the EU, third-party goods or restricted goods must report. Ships remaining in port for less than 24 hours need not report if only calling for fuel or taking on board provisions. Arrangements may be made for facilities for visits by cruise liner. State ships need not report

Arrival by Air

Generally, aircraft arriving in Ireland must land a customs airport or the Shannon Customs Free Zone. Freight offloaded must be transported to the approved customs facility at the customs airport. Customs formalities in relation to cargo, stores and passengers must be completed. Freight remaining in transit must be accounted for.

Aircraft departing to a destination outside the EU must not, other than as permitted by Revenue, depart other than from a customs airport. If the aircraft is departing for such a destination with goods on board. Revenue may make give instructions and take steps to detain the aircraft as they require. The customs have the power to board and inspect aircraft

The three major customs airports are Cork, Dublin and Shannon. Each has a defined customs area for the deposit and examination of goods on unloading. There are more limited customs facilities in other airports and licensed aerodromes.

An account of all aircraft engaged in traffic from outside the EU must be available at customs airports. This may be undertaken by handling agents. Pilots of aircraft arriving from non-EU countries engaging in third country traffic must arrange to bring the aircraft to the examination station on landing.

EU Flights

No reports are required from aircrafts from other EU states carrying only community goods. The cargo manifest is required for national prohibition and restriction control purposes and for confirmation that non-Community goods are not being carried. A report must be made where there are mixed Community and non-Community goods. The cargo manifest will suffice.

Normal customs controls do not apply in respect of flights within the EU, unless

  • third country goods are carried
  • stores are carried on board
  • non-EU passengers who have not been cleared are on board
  • goods on board are being exported to a third country
  • customs intervention is necessary in connection with the enforcement of prohibition of restrictions on importation or exportation.

Notice of Arrival

Ships and aircraft arriving in the EU must give details of their arrival. Legislation provides that the requirement for an Arrival Notification from the Carrier may be waived where the information is otherwise available to the customs authorities.

Irish Revenue have dispensed with the requirement for an arrival notification because it already receives arrival information on all sea going vessels and aircraft from DTTAS and DAA respectively.

Declaration and Presentation

Separate from the obligations of the shipper and airline, a person importing goods or the person responsible for their carriage must declare and present the goods to customs. Presentation requires that Revenue is notified that the goods have arrived. Goods must be presented within three hours of their arrival at the place of unloading. If the Revenue offices are unopen, it must be presented within an hour of re-opening.

Declarations may be made when the goods are presented, or within a short time afterwards. The importer or his representative make the declaration. The declaration may be made through the automated entry processing system (AEP). Goods are released once duties have been paid, accounted for or secured

Once declared they may go through one of a number of routes, one of which involves no examination of goods or documents, one which involves examination of documents and one which requires a physical examination of the goods and their documents. The route chosen depends on the profile of the goods. The higher the risk profile, the more likely a fuller examination will be required.

The declaration may be made and cleared in advance of movement. This is commonly done. The importer may enjoy simplifications granted by Revenue to further simplify the process.


An entry summary declaration is not required in cases provided for in international agreements concluded by the EU with a third country in the area of security. Such agreements currently exist with Norway and Switzerland (including Liechtenstein). They foresee that the Contracting Parties shall
introduce and apply the customs security measures to goods entering their customs territories, thus ensuring an equivalent level of security at their external borders. The Contracting Parties shall waive the application of the customs security measures where goods are carried between their respective
customs territories.

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