Loading goods for export from the UK

How to submit arrival and departure messages at UK ports and airports.


This guide is for people (known as loaders) responsible for receiving, presenting and loading goods for export from the UK to help them submit accurate arrival and departure messages.

Actions points loaders should be aware of and complete

Customs need to be able to trace shipments through a trader’s books and through Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) records.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have set out the basic information they feel should be provided by exporters and freight agents to enable loaders to accurately record goods presented for export at UK ports and airports. For more information see the guide on freight forwarding and managing risk.

Following the export declaration being made, HMRC recommend loaders are informed by the agent of the official customs reference for shipping goods.

References such as the Declaration Unique Consignment Reference (DUCR) number used or official entry reference number create an acceptable, auditable record.

Whilst exports are now a largely paperless system, HMRC have recommended which National Export System (NES) details agents ought to supply to enhance the export system, especially when sending goods forward to Transit Sheds, Designated Export Places, Inland Clearance Depots and ports.

This will reduce errors by NES approved loaders using Master Unique Consignment Reference (MUCR) numbers or DUCRs. Many arrivals are notified through the use of inventory-booking references so these are also worth confirming with agents in order to successfully link them to the correct CHIEF record.

Loader actions to be completed

Most exports are delivered to inventory linked, electronic port systems or ports with approved loaders, who in turn have electronic links into CHIEF.

Where you’re responsible for inputting the electronic arrival message, this completes the act of legal presentation of the goods for export.

For those ports with no electronic links to CHIEF, any goods for export must be presented independently to customs who will access CHIEF on the trader’s behalf.

Avoiding Customs Civil Penalties

To avoid customs civil penalties loaders should provide the information listed below in their electronic arrival and departure messages.

Read guidance on customs civil penalties and Notice 301: civil penalties for contraventions of customs law.

Electronic arrival messages at inventory or web-linked locations

For successful arrival messages at the port or airport you should supply a timely and accurate arrival message to CHIEF with the following details:

  • the CHIEF reference (entry processing unit, entry number and date) or Unique Consignment Number – MUCR or DUCR
  • information on the location of goods
  • the correctly input DUCR reference number, inventory reference or MUCR – any mis-keying may result in customs delays

Electronic departure messages at inventory or web-linked locations

If a departure message is required for the shipments, all of the following 6 items must be entered:

  • location of goods
  • name of vessel
  • the actual date of export
  • flag code of vessel
  • mode of transport

The Master Reference Number (MRN) generated by CHIEF or CHIEF Entry Number, date and time may also be used to ‘Arrive’ and ‘Depart’ goods as an alternative to the UCR.

For arrivals and departures at manual locations

Where ports or export locations are not controlled through electronic means, goods for export must be presented to customs.

Loaders should supply customs with a completed form C1601 along with a completed form C130EX.

Customs will perform actions similar to the loader found at inventory ports or customs approved web loaders. Customs input the details mentioned above. Once cleared for shipment, the C130EX will allow goods to be loaded and shipped. Once shipped, the C130EX should be stamped by the loader and be presented again to customs to complete the required departure message.

Goods must not be shipped, or be loaded to be shipped, without ‘permission to progress’ having been granted from customs.

Invalid reference numbers

If the reference number covering export goods entered into CHIEF is not accepted the loader should consider a new entry to allow the export to take place.

Any duplication must be brought to the attention of HMRC as soon as possible.

Further information

National Export System Helpdesk

Telephone: 03000 582418


Published 1 August 2012
Last updated 5 April 2016 
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