Guide to Exporting Goods from the UK

For international exports there are a number of shipping and transport options open for you and the process can seem difficult and complex. Here is a guide to assist you in making this process a success. But before we go into shipping your products you need to do some homework…

Do your Market research

Research your export market by visiting and showcasing your product in local exhibitions and trade fairs. Establish the demand for your product, valuate and size up your competitors, check prices, legislative requirements, import taxes etc. Make sure your product is compliant with the local standards and regulations.

Talk to your Chamber of Commerce and UKTI, they will give you valuable advice and support. Find a local agent/partner to work with who can support the distribution and after sale support like product maintenance etc. if appropriate.

Formulate an export strategy, allocate resources and set goals for the new market. Use Incoterms to avoid confusion

Agree Incoterms 2010 with your customers

For a successful partnership with an international buyer you need to make sure responsibilities are clearly understood, and then written down in a language everyone agrees to. Using Incoterms in a well-written contract will help you do this.

Incoterms, or International Commercial Terms, is an internationally accepted system of trading terms for the delivery of goods. In setting out contracts you’ll need to include specific clauses on shipping of the goods.

To avoid confusion, internationally agreed incoterms should be used to spell out exactly what delivery terms are being agreed, such as:

  • where the goods will be delivered
  • who arranges transport
  • who is responsible for insuring the goods, and who pays for insurance
  • who handles customs procedures, and who pays any duties and taxes

However, please note the incoterms does not define when titles of goods is transferred and does not address the price, currency or credit terms. This needs to be agreed separately in the sales contract.

Read more on international trade contracts and incoterms on GOV.UK.


Read more about the Incoterms.

Incoterms Rules

Agree Terms of Payment

Agree payment terms with your buyer and make sure you are covered if credit has to be agreed. Hold on to your Bill of Lading until you have been paid in full. Insure or use a Letter of Credit to safeguard against non-payments. Be careful not to lose on exchange rate fluctuations. Match or hedge your currency exposure.

Get your Export Documentation right

Check what documentation is required for exporting form the UK, and get a Customs code for your product. Do you need an export license? Check what documentation is required for the country you are exporting to. Do you need an import license, Certificate of Origin or any other document certifying the origin of the product? Many if thede certificates are issued by the Chamber of Commerce. Do you need insurance cover?

Produce a packing list which include description of the product, customs code, dimensions and weight, including packaging. Produce a Pro-forma invoice to your customer showing your customers name and address, description of product and customs code, number of units packed, unit price, total price, currency and agreed credit and delivery terms (Incoterms).

Establish the lead time from order to the product is packed and ready for shipment.

When you are shipping and transporting goods across borders, the right paperwork is crucial. Missing or inaccurate documents can lead to delays and extra costs, fines or even prevent a deal from being completed.

Get to know which paperwork you require from RJJ. There are many types of documents which are specific to your shipping or transport method.

Air freight documentation

An “air waybill” sets out the contract between your business and the carrier you’re using. The e-freight project aims to remove all paperwork from air cargo transportation. Find out more about the e-freight scheme on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website.

International Air Transport Association

Sea freight documentation

All your consignments must be accompanied by either a Bill of Lading” or Sea Waybill. These documents clearly set out who the consignment owner is and the terms of the contract of carriage.

A Bill of Lading allows you to retain ownership of the goods until you release the bills to your customer. It is risky to release the goods before full payment has been made unless you know your customer’s credit worthiness. Bills of lading give you documentary security and more control over your consignments.

Find out more information on export documentation.  

Export Documentation

Choose your Method of Shipping and Transport

You can use road, rail, air and sea to transport your goods, or any combination of these, full load (FCL) or groupage (LCL). The most obvious choice in transportation might not always be the best. Take into account your budget, timescales, you product – size, weight, perishability, security, special requirements, dangerous goods etc.

Let’s discuss the options with you and give you an insight into the pros and cons of the different methods. We offer a wide range of expertise and services

• consolidate smaller shipments to save you time and money

  • advice on rules and regulations and help you navigate the complexities of more challenging markets
  • act as an intermediary when you’re transporting to a new market
  • arrange and manage multimodal shipments.

Know your Customs and licenses responsibilities

Your main focus as an exporter is getting your product and services to your customer, so you can get paid and your customer will be satisfied. But you also need to comply with UK export laws and regulations.

In the UK this is fairly straightforward. But depending on what you’re exporting and where it’s going, this could potentially involve complying with some regulations and paperwork.

  • customs duties and reliefs
  • Intrastat declarations
  • export licenses
  • temporary export permits (to a trade fair, for instance)
  • certificates and permissions
  • sanctions

You must comply with any relevant regulations before you ship your goods or deliver any services. You need to be aware of them in the research stage so you can factor resource time and costing into your dealings.

You may need an EORI number to trade goods with countries outside the EU. Not required for private individuals.

Apply for your EORI number

The EORI application form you need to fill in depends on whether you’re:

registered for VAT

You will receive your EORI number by email, usually within 3 working days. Give the EORI number to RJJ and we will use it when we arrange your customs declarations.

Insure your products

We strongly recommend that you insure your products. An “All Risk Marine Cargo Insurance” cover loss or damage to your cargo in transit. The term "All Risks" broadly speaking means any accidental event which is external to the cargo. War and Strikes, Terrorism, General Average contributions and salvage cover, subject to terms.

This isn’t because we’re accident prone. We are not!

We will work hard to get your products from A to B as quickly and safely as possible, but shipping is just like every other business. No matter how hard you try to make sure every-thing goes right, something will occasionally go wrong. Accidents, bankruptcies, strikes and extreme weather conditions – all can put your products at risk, if only by delaying its arrival.

Over the years, we’ve become expert at responding to the unforeseen, and in the unlikely event of an incident we will be there to help you.

If you need advice on which insurance to buy, we will provide you with detailed quotes tailored to your requirements. We will arrange cover, issue policy documentation and help you if you need to make a claim.

We are registered with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and bound by their stand-ard terms and provisions, so we’re an organisation you can trust. We also apply the British International Freight Association BIFA’s Code of Practice when we provide you with insurance.

Financial Ombudsman