Containers customs clearance

When hearing customs clearance, people often start to get stressed. Unfortunately, the profession of a customs officer is not entirely liked by people involved in shipping and purchasing goods from abroad. And unnecessarily so! In fact, such a person is not at all as scary as we might think. Of course, he has the right tasks to perform, but at the same time makes sure that everything is carried out in accordance with the law, fully safe and at the highest level. In this article, we would like to focus on customs clearance in relation to containers, so looking at the maritime transport aspect.

Import vs. smuggling

There is a fundamental difference between importing and smuggling. This is practically treated by many people as one service. This is not true! Here we are dealing with two different activities, in which importing is legal, and smuggling, of course, is not. Wanting to explain the fundamental difference between importing and smuggling, goods imported by importers from abroad are subject to customs duties and thus can be legally sold in the customs territory of the European Union. In the case of smuggling, on the other hand, many “sellers” order thousands of products from abroad on a large scale, pay no customs duty and sell the goods in EU countries. But how is such transportation even possible here? According to EU regulations, items with a value of less than a few dozen goods are treated as “samples” and do not require customs duty. So such pseudo-sellers order dozens of products on the basis of just samples, describing them as low-value products. After receiving them, they sell them at the appropriate price and receive money.

So what exactly is importing goods in containers?

We already know the main difference between importing and smuggling in the simple sense. However, let’s now focus on imports in terms of product customs. In the simplest terms, an import is a transfer of ownership, and therefore a purchase-sale agreement for the goods or services in question between business entities. Of course, this applies to entities that come from different countries. The concept can also be explained in another way, namely, it is the manufacture of specific products abroad and their introduction into a foreign market, and therefore into a quite separate domestic customs territory. With the entry into the European Union in 2004, the border of the Polish customs territory is the border of the Union. All goods that come from outside this area must be dutiable and undergo customs clearance. At the border of such a customs area stands a customs officer, and it is he who plays a priority role here.

Customs officer – not as scary as it might seem

There is an established belief that the customs officer will always look for a problem and in every case will find something to disadvantage the supplier. This is not true. If everything is done legally, there is nothing to be afraid of. The entire customs procedure can be completed positively and any goods legalized. It is true that many people are afraid of the complexity of customs procedures, cumbersome formalities, and on top of that, the malice of officials. However, these are just stereotypes and overheard information. If a company has an active, legalized business activity and orders goods from abroad fully legally becoming an importer and not a smuggler, it absolutely does not need to be afraid of all customs and tax procedures. It is not true that customs procedures are complicated, paperwork is difficult to understand, and customs officials are just malicious people who try to search for a problem.


Customs is just a profession like any other. Of course, in the case of smugglers, it is known that he has to apply the appropriate steps, but if everything is fully legal, he makes absolutely no problems. His job is to catch dishonesty, not to look for problems where there are none. People who order goods from abroad should contact the customs agency in advance if something is not clear and uncertain to them. This is because it happens that specific products have various import restrictions, which require specific formal actions. So, in order not to get unnecessary problems, it is better to find out everything in advance, and then customs clearance will be absolutely no problem.

Necessary documents for customs clearance

The basic documents that must be presented when transporting goods are of key importance in customs clearance. Of vital importance is certainly: the commercial invoice, which must contain information about the currency and the delivery base. Also crucial is the loading list, CE certificates and certificates of conformity, as well as the bill of lading, certificate of origin, SAD, and also others that require specific documents, for example, the invoice for transport. If all the documentation is compatible and complete, customs clearance is no problem.

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