The United Kingdom is an island nation that is heavily reliant on air and ocean freight. It is an economy in flux, as Brexit is now a reality for shippers to and from the UK. The rules are changing for the British economy and there is a multitude of new regulations for those doing business to manage.
Let this guide highlight the ideas to consider and utilize when making shipping decisions in the United Kingdom.
Our Global Network – United Kingdom
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Key Requirements for Inbound Freight to UK Ports
Importers and exporters of goods into the United Kingdom should be aware of several important requirements. In some cases, these requirements need some action to be taken both by the shipper of the goods, and the consignee who will take possession of them once cleared by customs in the UK.
EORI Number: All companies importing and exporting commercial goods across UK borders will require an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, a unique identifier issued by HM Revenue & Customs. A shipper may apply for EORI registration at the HM Customs and Revenue website. The registration is complete in about three working days.
Commodity Codes: The UK uses commodity codes, based on the international Harmonized Coding system, so it is important for the shipper to know the correct commodity codes for the goods being moved to the UK.
Documents required for customs clearance: In addition to a manually or electronically submitted customs declaration document, HM Revenue and Customs requires the following documents in order to clear the shipment for import:
- The bill of lading (for ocean freight) or airway bill (for air freight)
- The commercial invoice issued by the supplier of the goods
- A packing list
Depending on the type of goods a shipper is transporting to the UK, other documents required for customs clearance may include:
- Certificate of Origin
- Preference Certificates
- Health certificates
- Certificates of analysis
- Organic certificate
Most types of freight may be imported to UK consignees without the need for a license, with some exceptions. Freight forwarders and customs brokers can advise on the need for import licenses or additional documentation.
Restricted Imports to the United Kingdom
Restrictions and licensing requirements exist with some UK imports. A few of these regulations apply to imports from all countries, while other restrictions/prohibitions exist only to control imports from outside the European Union.
For example, the following imports are prohibited or restricted regardless of their origin:
- Agricultural products (require licensing)
- Controlled drugs (restricted and controlled by licensing)
- Explosives (prohibited under most circumstances)
- Firearms (controlled by license)
Check out the list of restricted and prohibited imports on the website of HM Revenue and Customs.
Shipping Through Brexit
Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union has had a major impact in the region. From company dealings to travel plans, businesspeople (including shippers) have been affected in a multitude of ways. Shippers are facing profound changes. Here are some important points to consider.
In the near term, it is likely that the volume of shipments moving in and out of the UK will experience a lull, as the country carves a new niche within the global market.
It is predicted that Britain will reorganize its trade agreements in the coming years to adjust to the post-Brexit landscape. This may possibly bring better trade deals for the United Kingdom and mitigate any fallout from Brexit. In any case, it is a certainty that new trade tariffs will emerge involving the UK.
Border Control and Customs
Border control and customs can pose a challenge to the speed of a shipper’s delivery. However, with Brexit, it is possible that red tape and documentation may increase dramatically.
As these issues arise, the UK government will need to ensure that the shipping process is simplified to keep productivity sharp.
Brexit may be a turbulent time for the UK, but the increasingly globalized world promotes open borders and advantageous trade agreements.
However, those shippers entering international shipping as newcomers, who may not have the time to keep up with the ever-changing rules and regulations, may consider retaining an expert to navigate through the complicated post-Brexit customs process.
Helping Reduce the Impact of Brexit on your Supply Chain
Effective January 1st 2021 all shipments between the United Kingdom and the European Union require a customs process at origin and destination.
Heathrow Airport – Top Cargo Airport in the United Kingdom
Cargo is a major component of Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s leading airports, with around 1.5 million cubic tonnes of cargo, worth about £133 billion, travelling through the airport each year.
Heathrow is Britain’s global portal, connecting British exporters to global markets and making it easier for investors to travel to the UK. Heathrow Airport is Britain’s largest port in terms of value, handling over 30% of non-EU export goods each year.
In 2020, in the throes of the global pandemic, the number of cargo-only flights at Heathrow has surged to five times normal levels, with the airport prioritizing medical supplies as passenger travel slows down sharply.
Heathrow Airport is restyling itself as a “vital airbridge” for supplies and medical essentials during the coronavirus crisis.
Top Cargo ports in the United Kingdom
Grimsby and Immingham
Tees and Hartlepool
Top Commodities Exported from the UK (2018)
Crude Petroleum 5.7%
Gas Turbines 5.06%
Packaged Medicaments 4.17%
Source: OEC UK Profile
Top Commodities Imported to UK (2018)
Crude Petroleum 3.82%
Refined Petroleum 3.72%
Packaged Medicaments 2.6%
Source: OEC UK Profile
Top Tradelanes from the UK (UK is the origin point)
Top Tradelanes to the UK (UK is the destination)
Source: OEC UK Profile
International shipping guide to the UK | Shipa Freight
As an island nation, the United Kingdom relies on air and ocean freight more than many other countries may do. At Shipa Freight, we can offer competitive shipping rates to UK destinations from some 100 countries around the world.
Top Trends in Manufacturing
Manufacturing is a dominant industry in the United Kingdom. The East Midlands and West Midlands were the regions with the highest proportion of employees in manufacturing, as of 2017, while London had the lowest at 2.8%. As with all industries in the UK, the manufacturing sector is affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.
In 2018 manufacturing in the UK accounted for:
- 8% of jobs, 2.7 million in total
- £191 billion of economic output, or 10% of the UK total
- 42% of UK exports, worth £275 billion
- 65% (£16 billion) of UK research and development spending.
The top manufacturing sectors in the UK include: Aerospace industry in the United Kingdom, Automotive industry in the United Kingdom, and Pharmaceutical industry in the United Kingdom, along with food, drink, tobacco, paper, printing, publishing and textiles.
Shipping via Ocean Freight to the UK
Despite being surrounded by water, the UK does not have a great number of container ports. The two most important ports are Felixstowe in the East of England, and Southampton on the South coast of the country. The majority of trade lanes serving the UK involve one of these two ports.
The United Kingdom and the USA not only have a “special relationship” politically, but have traditionally enjoyed strong trading relationships. Many of the major carriers are involved in ocean freight shipping from the USA to UK ports. There is no shortage of companies willing to accommodate your shipments between the two nations.
Indeed, some of the most important ocean-freight trade lanes to the UK originate in the United States, as revealed by the following top-five list of busiest routes:
Savannah (Georgia) to Southampton Charleston (South Carolina) to Southampton Long Beach (California) to Southampton Antwerp (Belgium) to Southampton Antwerp (Belgium) to Felixstowe are the five connections busiest for freight in the United Kingdom
Longest and Shortest Transit Times
Ocean freight shipping from the USA to UK ports is a very popular tradelane, and is a healthy distance as well. But the longest ocean trade lane overall is the route connecting the United Kingdom with Australia.
The average time for a container vessel to travel between Sydney in Australia and the Scottish port of Grangemouth is about 45 days.
On the other end of the scale, the United Kingdom is separated from Northern Europe only by the relatively narrow English Channel. This leads to a multitude of much shorter transit times on routes connecting the European ports of Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Le Havre, and Antwerp with Felixstowe and Southampton. Cargo ships often complete the crossing between these ports in just a single day or less.
Source: Ocean Freight to UK Ports
E-commerce in the UK
The UK has the most developed e-commerce market in Europe. According to the most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (UK), the country’s e-commerce revenue in 2018 was 688.4 billion GBP, a sharp increase on the year prior. Wholesale and manufacturing were the two largest industry sectors that generated the highest e-commerce sales in the same year.
The retail sector in 2018 was responsible for nearly eight percent of e-commerce sales across all industries. In the retail sector alone, online sales constituted 17.8 percent of all retail in 2018, and was predicted to reach even higher levels in 2019. Online retailing had particular weight in textile and clothing stores, with the most recent governmental figures showing over one-fourth of retail sales coming from online.
In many markets in Europe, mobile commerce and mobile shoppers are taking precedence within e-commerce. In Great Britain, too, the share of smartphone users who shopped via mobile devices, especially smartphones, has increased over the years. Consumers who used mobile payment methods in their online transactions increased, with predicted growth of more than two million more users in 2019.
The online shopping landscape in the UK is becoming more diversified as more and more consumers choose to make purchases online. In 2019, as high as 82 percent of UK households made online purchases within the last 12 months, making this the highest online purchase penetration rate in the country in the past 11 years. Clothing and sports goods were especially popular purchases made online.
By analyzing online shopping behavior, it is clear that consumers have a mix of various motivations for why they shop online. A survey conducted in 2018 and 2019 suggested that prices and choices were two of the biggest factors. Another study on the payment patterns of online shoppers determined that while conventional methods such as credit cards or debit cards are used more, shoppers also accommodated online payment systems such as PayPal, or digital wallets such as Google, Apple, and Amazon.
Source: Ecommerce in the United Kingdom
Life Sciences in the UK
The UK has a globally unique health and life sciences ecosystem. Its record of scientific breakthroughs drives the next generation of life-changing treatments, technologies and services. The nation offers a national research and evidence gathering platform with unique data and clinical insights in the National Health Service (NHS).
Quick response to COVID-19
UK researchers are at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics development. Due to the well-established and interconnected healthcare and research system of the UK life sciences community, it was possible to respond rapidly and pool together resources from the NHS with academia and industry. The United Kingdom’s history of heavy investment in life sciences allowed further resources to be directed to COVID-19 research and support manufacturers and researchers developing treatments.
There are global life sciences clusters connecting investors with customers, collaborators, supply chains, and innovation partners. The UK has more medical products in development than any other country in Europe, generating a turnover of £74bn and exports of £30bn.
The UK life sciences ecosystem is a dynamic space for bold, high-risk scientific research and application in medicine.
Research and development
The UK is at the forefront of global scientific exploration, invention and innovation. The future of the already highly productive science base is secured by a commitment to increase R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. UK researchers and institutions have pioneered major scientific breakthroughs – from the discovery of penicillin and the structure of DNA to advancements in neuroscience and medical imaging, and developments in stem cells and in vitro fertilization.
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