Export declarations and the National Export System

The National Export System and how to use it

The electronic National Export System (NES) must be used by exporters to declare to customs their intention to export goods to third countries - ie countries outside the European Union.

Gaining access to NES

NES operates via Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) - a nationwide computer system that electronically controls and records the UK's international cargo movements. All Export Declarations must be submitted electronically to CHIEF. See our guide on UK's import and export processing system CHIEF.

Also see the page in this guide on National Export System technical information.

Two Export simplified procedures are available under NES – the Simplified Declaration Procedure (SDP) or the Local Clearance Procedure (LCP). For authorisation to use one of these, you should complete and return the NES application form. Access the NES application form C&E 48 from the HMRC website.

Once the form has been successfully completed and returned to HMRC, you will be given a CHIEF role and location which will enable you to use NES via CHIEF. Make sure you can provide a valid Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number.

For more information, see our guide on the Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) Scheme.

If you trade within an international supply chain, are actively involved in customs operations and have your EORI number, you may want to consider applying for Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status. This signifies the quality of your operations and allows customs simplifications. See our guide on Authorised Economic Operators.

If you're using an agent, you should provide your agent with all the necessary information to complete an accurate export declaration. Your agent should supply you with a customs reference number for your goods. This number is used by customs for audit purposes and may be either:

  • the Declaration Unique Consignment Reference (DUCR) or Master UCR (MUCR) where a consignment consists of more than one DUCR amalgamated into a MUCR
  • the CHIEF Export Entry Reference (Entry Processing Unit (EPU), Entry Number and Date)
  • the Movement Reference Number (MRN) generated by CHIEF

The three main ways to declare exports under NES

Standard Full Pre-entry Procedure - here you or your agent completes a full pre-shipment export declaration.

All declarations should be made electronically to CHIEF, although in rare and exceptional cases - for example for merchandise carried in baggage - customs may manually input your declaration.

The other two other ways to declare exports under NES are the simplified procedures referred to above - the SDP and the LCP. For more information on SDP and LCP, see the page on Supplementary Declarations for export purposes and the National Export System in our guide on using and submitting Supplementary Declarations.

Proof of export

When your goods arrive at a port they must be electronically 'arrived' on CHIEF - ie presented to customs. This is done by the submission of an 'arrival message' to CHIEF. Only those with a CHIEF 'loader' role may submit arrival messages to CHIEF. When the goods are cleared by customs - ie given permission to progress (P2P) – CHIEF sends an electronic message back. This electronic message provides confirmation that the export of your goods has legal authority.

Restricted goods

There are restrictions on the movement of some goods out of the UK. If you're exporting restricted goods you'll probably need an export licence. See our guide on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions.