Customs Clearance Glossary

Customs clearance use a large variety of technical terms that can be a bit overwhelming and confusing to the uninitiated. We have created a Customs Clearance glossary of terms aiming to help you have a better understanding of the customs clearance processes.

Customs Clearance Terms  

Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) It is a party involved in the international movement of goods that has been approved by Customs Authorities as complying with WCO or equivalent supply chain security standards. AEO is an internationally recognised quality mark.
ATA Actual Time of Arrival
ATA Carnet  Customs document that incorporates an internationally valid guarantee. It shares similar functions with the national Customs documents. It is also used as security for import duties and taxes.
ATD Actual Time of Departure
Bill of Lading Contract between the shipper and the carrier. The customer usually needs the original or a copy as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.
Bonded Warehouse  Facility where imported goods are stored before paying customs duties and taxes. The payment of those is not necessary until the goods physically leave the bonded warehouse and enter the Customs Territory.  
Brokerage Using a third party to clear the shipments on your behalf.
Cargo Manifest List of goods – and their commercial details – shipped in a specific way of transport or transport unit.
Certificate of Origin  It certifies that the goods involved in the shipment are originated in a specific country.
CIF (Cargo, Insurance and Freight) An abbreviation used when the selling price includes all “Cost, Insurance and Freight” for the goods. The seller is responsible of paying all expenses involved in the shipment (from origin to a given point of import). The seller has also to clear the goods for export and procure and pay marine insurance against the buyer’s risk of loss or damage of the cargo during the shipment.  
CITES Convention on International of Endangered Species
Customs broker An individual or company licensed by the government to enter and clear goods through Customs
Customs declaration Any information or details required by Customs in any form given or accepted by Customs.
EDI Electronic Data Interchange
Ex Works (EXW) Incoterm used for any transport method. The buyer is responsible for loading the goods onto a vehicle, all export procedures, onward transport and all costs in terms of collecting the goods. Once the goods have left the sellers manufactory, it is the buyer’s responsibility and risk. 
Free zone Specific areas within a country where goods are not subject to duties and taxes
FOB (Free on Board) Incoterm which can only be used for transporting goods by sea or inland waterways. The seller delivers the goods, clears it for export and loads them on board at the origin port. Once the goods have been loaded, the risk and responsibility are for the buyer.
Insurance Arrangement where a company attempts to provide a guarantee of coverage for specified loss and damage in return for payment of a specified premium.
Landed cost All costs related to imported goods at the import point, including the cost of freight, insurance and port and dock charges
Pro Forma Invoice An invoice provided by a supplier before shipping the goods. It indicates the details of the goods: quantity, value and important specifications such as weight, size, etc. When an importer applies for Letter of Credit as the means of payment, a Pro Forma Invoice from the beneficiary of such Letter of Credit, usually the exporter, is required by the L/C issuing bank.
Value for VAT adjustment The VAT Adjustment is the cost of all charges from arrival at port to the first point of delivery in the UK. This will include Terminal Handling, Shipping Line Documentation, Customs Clearance and UK Haulage (£170 min + £80per cube meter (cbm) / full container £550).

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For any assistance with Customs Clearance at any other port, feel free to call +44 (0)20 8539 8899 or email