How customs clearance differs between EU Ro/Ro and other modes of transport

Brexit has meant that goods arriving from and exporting to the EU by Ro/Ro have required clearances since January 2021, with the GVMS system making this time-sensitive from January 2022. But did you know that EU Ro/Ro freight has different customs clearance requirements to other modes of transport in the U.K.?

Here is the outline for how each mode of transport differs in processes:

Customs clearance for EU Ro/Ro freight


When you are transporting your goods by EU Ro/Ro freight, both the import and export customs clearance declarations must be pre-lodged before the goods arrive at the GB/EU border. This is because your entries will be processed as live by the GVMS system upon the ferry embarking.

Additionally, your shipment must have copies of all the relevant paperwork uploaded to the GVMS system during the creation of your Goods Movement Record (GMR). The vehicle must also carry copies of these documents with the load, in one file known as a logistics envelope.

To process your shipments as efficiently as possible, the easiest procedure is as follows:

– The exporter emails copies of the shipment to the buyer, the haulier, the export clearance agent, and the import clearance agent.
– The clearance agents “reply to all” with copies of the import and export declarations, so that everyone has copies.
– The haulier completes the GMR and forwards copies to all.
– The exporter prints all documents and provides this to the vehicle. (This can be done at your haulier’s depot if the vehicle is returning there first).
– The driver presents the GMR and logistics envelope to the ferry operator, and both the import and export declarations are processed once the ferry has embarked.

Customs procedures for other modes of transport


Other modes of transport, such as container sea freight, do not require import customs clearance before the goods leave the originating country – even if this is from the EU. This is because the unit is registered on the manifest before arriving at the vessel, so the shipper can match up the Declarant Unique Consignment Reference (DUCR) on your export customs entry to the Master Unique Consignment Reference (MUCR) that is created during the manifest. This is also how multiple export entries are allocated when transporting Less than Container Load (LCL) cargo.

During the import process, your shipment will be given a Unique Consignment Number (UCN) at the port of entry. This will be entered on the import customs clearance so that your declaration can be matched to the import manifest. Your customs clearance agent will also be able to see if any other holds or examinations have been allocated against your shipment using the UCN.

Once all holds have been removed and the goods have passed customs checks, your UCN will clear and you will be able to collect the goods from the port of import.

Why are EU Ro/Ro clearances different?

EU Ro/Ro requires the GVMS system because of the tight timelines that are involved with collecting and delivering goods across the GB/EU border by road. The vehicle registration might not be known until late, the truck may miss the ferry, or the movement might take place overnight when there are no clearance agents available to process the declaration. To avoid delays, errors, and queues at the border, the GVMS system was created to provide the flexibility that is needed.

Need help with your customs clearances?

Universal customs clearance provide import and export customs clearances in seaports around the U.K., end-to-end customs services with our partners in the EU, transit guarantees, and GVMS services. If you need assistance with your EU Ro/Ro clearances or other services in the U.K., contact us for more information.


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