Introduction to transporting your goods

How to choose the right transport and customs route for your consignments


You can choose from a wide range of transport modes and routes. Your choice will depend on, among other things, how quickly you want to transport your goods and how much you want to spend.

When deciding the optimum route for your consignments, consider these questions:

  • Does the country you're transporting to or from have a good transport infrastructure?
  • Do you need to use more than one mode of transport?
  • How fast do you need to move your consignments?
  • Do your consignments require special packing, eg refrigeration?
  • Does your customer have any specific terms of sale you must comply with? These detail who has responsibility for the transport and any additional charges it may incur.


Road transportation is probably the most common way of moving your goods - particularly to and from mainland Europe, giving you the option of using a single mode of transport for door-to-door delivery, or moving your goods from one mode of transport to another for the channel crossing - see how to move goods by road.


Rail transportation can be cheaper than other modes of transport, particularly for bulky goods over long distances and where environmental protection is more important than fast deliveries - see how to move goods by rail.


This is the fastest way of transporting your goods but can be the most expensive - depending on the quantity/volume of goods - see how to move goods by air.


Transporting goods by sea can take longer but can be very cost-effective, especially if you are shipping large volumes - see how to move goods by sea.

Roll-on roll-off ferries

If you're using containers/trucks for your transportation, roll-on roll-off ferries can offer you cost-effective routes. Usually standard trailers can be accommodated, but check with the ferry company or your freight forwarder first.


Freight forwarders often consolidate several consignments with the same destination. This can save you considerable sums of money.

Express courier

If your goods are urgent or valuable, then express couriers can provide specialist services.

Take care to check the route your goods will take. Use the expertise of your freight forwarder, who'll have detailed knowledge of the destination countries' infrastructure and may suggest more cost-effective alternative routes.


Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) are used to ensure there's no ambiguity about who pays the charges attached to the transport route and mode when goods arrive at their final destination and who is responsible for import and export clearance - see International Commercial Contracts - Incoterms.

ATA carnets

You can use an ATA carnet if you need to temporarily move goods into or out of the European Union (EU), subject to that country being part of the scheme. The vouchers replace the usual customs documentation. In the UK, they're issued by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. You can find more detail on how to use these vouchers to temporarily move goods into or out of the UK in our guide on ATA and CPD carnets.

The Duplicate List

You can use this procedure if you need temporarily to export from and then re-import goods into the UK, but not within the EU. It only applies to some goods, including:

  • professional effects, eg portable computers and tools
  • works of art and other items exported solely for exhibition, display or demonstration purposes
  • trade samples
  • trophies belonging to a recognised sporting association or organising body permanently established in the UK

Find more detailed information on the Duplicate List and the export and re-import procedures when using the Duplicate List.

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status

If you trade within the EU as part of an international supply chain and are actively involved in customs operations you can apply for AEO status. The AEO certificate is an internationally recognised quality mark which tells people that your customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant and that you can be considered a secure and reliable trading partner in the supply chain. AEOs may benefit from simplifications provided for under the customs rules, or from facilitations of customs controls relating to security and safety - see Authorised Economic Operators.

The Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) Scheme

As a trader, if you wish to register - or are already registered as an AEO, you will also need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) Scheme number.