Import guidance

Imports of fish and seafood from outside the EU are very strictly regulated, with requirements for health certification and traceability for all imports and further guarantees in other specific consignments.

The UK imported seafood to the value of £2.6billion in 2012 from other European Union countries or from non-EU countries.

While movements of fish and fishery products are largely unrestricted within the EU, imports of fish and seafood from outside the EU are very strictly regulated. There are requirements for health certification and traceability for all imports and further guarantees on other specific consignments.

At the border, Port Health officials carry out a number of checks on the consignment. Precisely which checks they carry out depends on the consignment, on the exporting country, and latest advice from the European Commission.

Seafish maintains an up-to-date a guide for importers below. You can alternatively download the printable version of the Seafish guide here (last updated August 2010.)

Contents

Why have controls on seafood imports?
Regulation: The legal context
Principal legislation
Who does what in the UK?
Devolved responsibilities
Who does what in Europe?
Third countries
Third countries that can export seafood to the EU
Countries with a bilateral export agreement with the UK
Can I import from my new contact outside the EU?
Establishments that are not on the approved list
Products covered by veterinary checks
Crossing the border: before the Border Inspection Post
What needs to be in place before the consignment arrives at the BIP?
What is TRACES? How do I get it?
Crossing the border: at the Border Inspection Post
What happens at the BIP?
Documentary check
Identity check
Physical check
Do trade samples or samples for research need a CVED?
Requirements for packaging
What do I have to pay?
Landings from third country-flagged vessels
Rejected consignments
Consignments intended for transit
Personal imports
Customs
Further information

Why have controls on seafood imports?

Import controls are in place to protect human and animal health. Food originating outside the UK needs to have been produced to to the same minimum standards as the ones that apply throughout the EU. Import controls at the border ensure that only food that conforms to national and European food safety legislation, and therefore poses no risk to public health, is allowed into the country. Examples of food that would be stopped at the border are fish containing unacceptable levels of mercury, or shellfish containing biotoxins.

Importing foodstuffs, if uncontrolled, also carries the risk of introducing pests and diseases. The importation of seafood and live fish into the UK is controlled to prevent imported fish diseases from affecting our wild and farmed stocks.

Regulation: The Legal Context

The UK operates trade controls according to the requirements of international law, the requirements as laid down by EU legislation and requirements specific to the UK.

The UK, together with all the other member states of the EU, is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which incorporates the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The GATT requires equal treatment between imports from one country with those from all other countries (the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment). Restrictions in trade may be imposed only in certain specific circumstances. One of these circumstances is for 'measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health'.

As regards EU law, restrictions on trade between EU states are largely prohibited, although there are some exceptions to this. The Treaty Establishing the European Community allows certain restrictions on trade between member states if they are to protect the health of humans, animals or plants, or public policy, public security or public morality.

Principal legislation

There is a vast amount of EU and national legislation to control the import of seafood into the EU. The main obligation is to comply with the conditions set out in The Trade in Animals and Related Products (TARP) Regulations 2011. The regulations implement in UK law the veterinary controls on products of animal origin as required by the EU. This includes the appointment of Official Fish Inspectors (OFIs), how to deal with non-conforming product and how to calculate charges for the veterinary checks.

Seafood falls under the imported product Veterinary Checks Directive (97/78/EC). The Directive prescribes that seafood originating from third countries has to be imported via a Border Inspection Post (BIP) and has to be subjected to a series of veterinary checks. Defra has produced guidance on their interpretation, available here.

Some of the checks required by the Veterinary Checks Directive are described in Regulation 136/2004. The 136/2004 Regulation also contains a sample Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) and guidance for filling it out.

Seafood production in third countries has to match EU standards in terms of hygiene and food safety. That means that food produced abroad is covered by the same general principles of food law and food safety as exist in the EU. These principles are laid out in Council Regulation 178/2002, the consolidated hygiene Regulations 852/2004, 853/2004 and 854/2004, and the official food and feed control Regulation 882/2004. There is Seafish guidance on how these laws apply specifically to seafood.

There is also other legislation covering animal health, food standards, maximum residue levels etc.

Who does what in the UK?

A number of government departments, agencies and Local Authorities (LAs) are involved in the regulation of seafood imports.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA)

The FSA is responsible for public health aspects of food imported into the UK. As the Competent Authority for fish and fishery product imports into the UK from third countries, it has particular responsibility for policy issues for imports of fishery products and shellfish. The FSA, usually through its Imported Food Team, assists and co-ordinates LAs at ports and inland in enforcing import regulations by providing e.g. up-to-date lists of establishments authorised to export to the UK, lists of approved BIPs, and copies of health certificates that have to accompany products from third countries.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Defra is the designated Central Competent Authority for the administration of the Veterinary Checks regime for POAO and live animal imports into England. Responsibility for policy on EU rules for imports of animal products is shared between Defra and the FSA: Defra has responsibility for the animal health aspects, and the FSA responsibility for the food safety aspects, including those relating to residues of veterinary medicines or banned substances. Because the issues of animal health and public health are very often overlapping, Defra works closely with the FSA on matters of food imports.

Live fish imports are controlled by Defra and its Fish Health Inspectorate ( FHI) (and by Marine Scotland, formerly the Scottish Government Marine Directorate, in Scotland and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland).

Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

APHA is an enforcement agency administered by Defra. It supports LAs and devolved agricultural departments and is present at most busy sea ports and airports. APHA is responsible for live fish and other aquatic creatures and for POAO veterinary checks at BIPs where the POAO is not intended for human consumption.

APHA administers legitimate imports under the CITES Protocol that controls trade in endangered species. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers control illegal imports of endangered species.

LAs and Port Health Authorities (PHAs)

LAs and Port Health Authorities (PHAs) are responsible for food safety and food standards at ports of entry. PHAs are responsible for providing Official Fish Inspectors (OFIs), keeping the BIPs equipped and run properly and collecting charges. OFIs check seafood as required by the Veterinary Checks Directive, check and complete the CVED, and liaise with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers in the identification of illegal seafood. The OFI issues rejection notices if the consignment is rejected and ensures correct disposal. The OFI, or any officer authorised by the LA, has extensive powers, and can enter any building (except private homes) and open and inspect any package, including personal luggage.

PHAs are tasked with checking catch certificates at the border as required by legislation dealing with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Customs officers are responsible for identifying prohibited and restricted goods. They receive notification of all goods imported from third countries. Customs will assist the LA by e.g. not releasing a consignment of seafood until the OFI has completed the statutory veterinary checks.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has the overall responsibility for international trade policies, including compliance with WTO and other international obligations.

Devolved responsibilities

Many of the import controls are devolved, so that the equivalent agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland implement the controls in their respective areas. They are presented in the Table below (adapted from Machinery of Government Secretariat, (November 2002). The Organisation of the Government's Controls of Imports of Animals, Fish, Plants and their Products. The Cabinet Office, London).

Organisation England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland

HMRC

X

X

X

X

BIS

X

X

X

X

FSA

X

X

X

X

Defra: Animal and Plant Health Authority

X

Welsh Assembly Government

Marine Scotland

DAERA

Defra: Fish Health Inspectorate

X

Welsh Assembly Government

Marine Scotland

DAERA

Defra: Marine Management Organisation

X

Welsh Assembly Government

Marine Scotland

DAERA EHOs

LAs at Ports

X

X

X

X

The scope for UK ministers to introduce their own food import laws for their administrative areas is strictly limited, because most legislation comes from the EU and usually, in this field, leaves very little room for interpretation. The result is that legislation and statutory instruments or their equivalents in the devolved administrations are very similar.

Who does what in Europe?

DG Sante

The Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General of the EU, usually known as DG Sante, is tasked with keeping public health, food safety and consumer affairs legislation up to date. It ensures that food safety and animal health legislation is applied properly in member states (through the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), see below) and provides the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

The purpose of RASFF is to provide authorities such as Defra with a tool for exchanging food and feed safety information. So if, for example, food contamination is detected in Italy, the rapid alert system quickly supplies the UK with the details of the contaminated food. If the food is in circulation in the UK, the UK authorities can then take measures to recall the food, increase checks at borders and alert the public. The legal basis of RASFF is laid down in Regulation 178/2002/EC.

The latest RASFF informaton, with links to archived RASFF alerts, can be accessed here.

FVO

The main task of the FVO is to ensure that EU legislation that concerns food safety and animal health is properly implemented and enforced. This role includes ensuring compliance with EU food safety and quality standards in third countries exporting to the EU. As competent authorities in the UK, the FSA and Defra are subject to regular checks by the FVO. The FVO also regularly audits and inspects BIPs for compliance with EU legislation.

Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF)

The Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoPAFF), formerly known as the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC), is made up of eight different sections, of which one is Controls and Import Conditions. (This and Biological Safety of the Food Chain come together to be colloquially known as the Public Health Committee). The committee meets every month. Agendas and summary reports are available from the DG Sante website here.

The regulation of imports of fishery products is regularly discussed at the meetings. SCoPAFF's Opinions are usually adopted by the Commission in accordance with the appropriate procedure.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

EFSA provides the European Commission with independent scientific advice on all matters with a direct or indirect impact on food safety. The legal basis for its foundation is EU Regulation 178/2002.

Third countries

These are countries that are not EU member states. Iceland, The Faroe Islands, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Andorra and San Marino enjoy a similar status to EU member states in most activities involving imports and are therefore not considered third countries from a veterinary point of view.

Third countries that can export seafood to the EU

The country of origin of the seafood to be imported must be listed as approved by the EU . EU-approved exporting countries are set out in Commission Decision 2006/766/EC, amended most recently by Decision 2013/415/EU, for fish and fishery products and bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates and marine gastropods. The establishment in that country exporting the seafood also has to be on the EU-approved Third Country Establishment list. The lists are available on the EU website here.

Being on the EU's Third Country Establishment list means that the national authority of that country has approved the listed establishments for export to the EU. The FVO is satisfied that the national authority of that country can be relied upon to maintain the required standards of food safety.

Imports from certain countries on the approved lists are affected by temporary restrictions or additional requirements. You are advised to check the latest amendments to Annexes I and II of Decision 2006/766/EC, DG Sante's Special Import Conditions page and the FSA's Fishery Information Notes for the latest information.

Countries with a bilateral export agreement with the UK

The legislation relevant to these countries was the amended Regulation 2076/2005, specifically Article 17. However, the transitional period for which this regulation was valid expired on 31 December 2009, and there has been no extension.

Most of the countries listed in the transitional regulation were transferred to the approved list by Decision 2009/951/EU.

Can I import from my new contact outside the EU?

Yes, if the following requirements are satisfied:

  • The seafood you want to import complies with all the relevant EU legislation as regards hygiene, contaminants, packaging etc.;
  • The non-EU country you are importing from is an EFTA country (Iceland, Norway or Switzerland) or on the appropriate EU list;
  • The establishment (i.e. the processor, freezer vessel, factory vessel or cold store) is on the approved establishment list of that country;
  • If the product is of aquaculture origin, the establishment is approved to handle product of aquaculture origin. See the Annex in Decision 2011/163/EU and any subsequent amendements and check the footnotes on the approved establishment lists;
  • No specific exemptions or restrictions are in force.

In addition, you need to import the seafood through a Border Inspection Post (BIP) that handles seafood. You will have to:

  • Notify the BIP in advance of arrival of your consignments;
  • Submit the relevant documentation to the BIP, including an original health certificate. The type of certification required is dependent on the product type and country of origin;
  • Present the consignment to the BIP for veterinary checks; and
  • Pay all inspection charges.

Establishments that are not on the approved list

To gain approval, the establishment first has to contact the competent authority (ie the equivalent of the FSA) in its country. The procedures the European Commission uses to amend lists of establishments are laid out in this document.

Guidelines on how a country can become approved for exporting to the EU are available in Commission guidance here (see Chapter 8).

Products covered by veterinary checks

Veterinary checks are a series of documentary, identity and physical checks carried out on every imported consignment of seafood. 'Consignment' is defined in Directive 97/78/EC as 'a quantity of products of the same type covered by the same veterinary certificate(s) or veterinary document(s), or other document(s) provided for by veterinary legislation, conveyed by the same means of transport and coming from the same third country or part of such country'.

Checks are carried out by the Official Fish Inspector (OFI), appointed by the Local Authority. The physical checks have to be carried out at a Border Inspection Post (BIP). BIPs have the facilities for opening consignments, if necessary, and for sampling them hygienically.

Products covered by the veterinary checks regime are listed in Decision 2007/275/EC, and include all fish and shellfish, dead or alive, and their products. The fish-related items are listed under Combined Nomenclature (CN) codes 03, 1603, 1604 and 1605 and include:

  • Live fish, shellfish and other marine invertebrates;
  • All fish, fish products, shellfish and shellfish products; and
  • Other invertebrates such as squid, sea urchins and jellyfish.

Composite products are foods containing foods both of animal origin and of non-animal origin, such as prepared fish dishes, seafood pizza and prawn sandwiches. Article 4 of Decision 2007/275/EC specifies that composite products containing 50% or more of processed fish material will be subject to checks. Article 6 lists the exceptions whereby certain products containing less than 50% of fish material are not subject to tests. There is comprehensive advice from APHA in Import Information Note CP/1 and older advice from the FSA in FIN 10/2007. Importers of composite products must ensure that the food satisfies the requirements for products of animal origin (Regulation 853/2004, Article 6(4)). There is a health certificate that has to accompany the composite product; a template is available in Regulation 28/2012 as amended by Regulation 468/2012. However the health certificate specific to the fishery product set out in Regulation 2074/2005 as amended is also acceptable.

Crossing the border: before the Border Inspection Post

What needs to be in place before the consignment arrives at the Border Inspection Post?

The consignment must originate in an approved country from an approved establishment as explained above.

  • An original health certificate issued by the competent authority in the third country must accompany the consignment. The current certificate is the joint public and animal health certificate as set out in Regulation 2074/2005 as amended.
  • Products of aquaculture origin have to be accompanied by a joint public and animal health certificate and in certain cases the animal health part needs to be filled in. This is also detailed in Regulation 1250/2008.
  • Enough traceability information must accompany the consignment to allow accurate labelling further along the chain. For products covered by the Fish Labelling Regulations, this would include as a minimum:
  1. The commercial designation of the fish species;
  2. The production method;
  3. The catch area;
  4. The scientific name of the fish species (optional at retail sale to final consumer but must be included in traceability information at each stage of marketing); and
  5. The identification mark (as in Section I, Annex II of Regulation 853/2004). In general, the country of origin and the establishment's identification mark must be printed on each 'retail-ready' pack, whereas items that are not shelf ready require the mark and country to be displayed only on their external container. This guide prepared by APHA contains FSA-approved advice on identification marking.
    Further information on labelling is available on the Labelling page of this website.
  • The consignment has to pass through a BIP authorised to accept fish and fishery products. Items that have been introduced in the UK without being presented at an appropriate BIP may be seized by the appropriate authority under Regulation 19 of the TARP Regulations 2011. Details of the consignment will be passed to the Border Force National Intelligence Hub. All BIPs are listed on the Defra website here; contact details are listed on the Association of Port Health Authorities (APHA) website here.
  • The BIP has to be pre-notified of the arrival of a consignment. The authority responsible for the BIP has to be notified before the arrival of the consignment. This is defined inRegulation 14 of the TARP Regulations 2011.
  • Part 1 of the Common Veterinary Entry Certificate (CVED) must be filled out. The CVED is defined in Commission Regulation 136/2004. The CVED should be filled out and submitted online using the EU's computerised notification system, TRACES.
  • For seafood caught after 31 Dec 09, a validated catch certificate as required by the IUU Regulation (Regulation 1005/2008) will have to be presented at the BIP. There is more information on catch certificates here.

What is TRACES and how do I get it?

TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) is the EU-wide veterinary computer system used to notify veterinary authorities of certain consignments of animals and animal products. Importers or their agents should use it to generate the CVED and pre-notify the receiving BIP by filling in and submitting Page 1 of the CVED.

You can register with TRACES by accessing the EU TRACES page here. See also Defra's TRACES page here.

 

Crossing the border: at the Border Inspection Post

What happens at the BIP?

According to Council Directive 97/78/EC:

  • The importer or agent has to submit the goods to the BIP for inspection.
  • The Authorised Officer (the Official Fish Inspector (OFI)) will conduct a Documentary, Identity and Physical Check on the consignment.

Documentary check

All consignments will be subjected to a documentary check. This is to ensure that the details on the Health Certificate agree with the accompanying documents.

Certificates accompanying consignments should meet the following requirements (transcribed from the FSA's Local Resource Pack):

  • Must be an original and bear a unique registration number (faxed or photocopied versions of certificates are not to be considered as original documents).
  • Content and presentation must conform to the model certificate, which has been prescribed for the product concerned.
  • Must be signed by a duly authorised Government Official and bear the name of and position held by that official (in block capitals or with a name stamp) and, a clearly legible official stamp.
  • Must consist of a single sheet of paper, which must be fully completed.
  • May contain only one consignee.
  • Must be drawn up and completed in the official EU language of the final destination Member State and in the language of the Member State receiving/inspecting the goods at the BIP, i.e. the OFI must be able to understand what is being certified.
  • The information contained in the certificate or other accompanying documents and Part 1 of the CVED document should be identical.
  • The certificate must be typewritten or in a clearly legible handwriting.
  • Any deletions must be crossed through (correcting fluids must not have been used) and stamped and signed by the same person signing the certificate.

The OFI will check countries of origin and approved establishments against the relevant lists, most of which are available via this page on the FSA website.

Identity check

All consignments, with a few exceptions, will be subjected to an identity check. This is to ensure that the documentation tallies with the product. New Zealand has an equivalence agreement with the EU allowing its products to be exempt from identity checks.

The OFI will also check that:

  • seals are intact; and
  • stamps and identification marks ('health marks') are present.

If there is any doubt concerning the seal, the OFI may open the container and individual packages checked to identify the product.

Manifests, bills of lading, waybills, packing lists and other documents accompanying the consignment may be checked by the OFI as part of the identification check. Access to manifests is provided for in Directive 97/78/EC, Article 3(3).

Physical check

The physical check is to ascertain that the product is legal and fit for the purpose defined in the accompanying documentation, and may entail sensory testing and laboratory testing. This check must be carried out at a BIP. Only a proportion of packages will be physically checked at the BIP. Frequencies of physical checks are listed in Annex I of Decision 94/360/EC as amended (most recently by Decision 2006/590) and are:

  • 20% of consignments of fish products in hermetically sealed containers intended to render them stable at ambient temperatures, fresh and frozen fish and dry and/or salted fishery products;
  • 50% of consignments of fishery products other than those mentioned above; and
  • 50% of consignments of bivalve molluscs.

Countries that have an equivalence agreement with the EU (currently New Zealand, Canada and Chile) are subject to a reduced level of physical checks.

You will face an increased frequency of checks if a consignment fails. Where a check on a consignment from a particular establishment of origin in a third country reveals a 'serious or repeated infringement' (eg if an unauthorised substance is present, or if a maximum residue limit has been exceeded), physical checks are increased to 100% for the next ten consignments from that establishment (Art. 24 of Directive 97/78/EC and Regulation 22 of the TARP Regulations 2011). If checks show a serious or repeated infringement of EU legislation, Defra will inform the EU (DG Sante) and DG Sante will in turn inform all EU BIPs. Checks will be intensified for the next 10 consignments of products of the same origin (Art. 24 of Directive 97/78/EC). You can read more about re-enforced checks here.

The checks must be carried out according to the criteria in Annex III of Directive 97/78/EC and take the form of:

  • sensory checks;
  • physical tests such as cutting and cooking;
  • laboratory tests for residues, pathogens and contaminants;
  • temperature and breaks in the cold chain;
  • weight; and
  • wrapping materials.

If there is a history of non-compliance or if there is an immediate danger to public health, the consignment will be held back until laboratory test results are available. Once the physical check has been completed, the OFI will reseal and stamp all opened packages.

Do trade samples or samples for research need a CVED?

No, consignments imported as trade samples or as samples for particular studies are exempt from veterinary checks, so they can be imported without a CVED. However, they do need an import authorisation. Trade samples of seafood (trade, display, research and diagnostic samples) will require approval by the Import Team at APHA Carlisle (Tel: 01228 403600, email CentralOps.Carlisle@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk ). See also API-14-25. You are likely to require a catch certificate in accordance with IUU legislation.

Requirements for packaging

EU laws on packaging are strict, especially laws on plastics. Imported food must have packaging that complies with these rules.

EU legislation on food contact materials is based on Regulation 1935/2004, implemented in the UK by national regulations such as the Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2005 (as amended). Further information is available from the FSA website here.

The packaging has to withhold its integrity throughout the trip. Consignments with broken packaging may be interpreted by enforcement officers as having been tampered with.

Up to 1 Jan 2006, Directive 91/493 laid down that the EU Establishment Number had to be on all layers of packaging and not just on one or some of the layers. Consignments have historically been rejected for failing this point. This Directive has now been repealed and replaced by provisions in the new hygiene regulations. Annex II Section I of Regulation 853/2004 lays out the details on identification marking. Guidance on identification marking (prepared in 2008) is available here.

What do I have to pay?

You will have to pay a charge for the veterinary checks carried out on your consignment. The minimum charges are specified in Article 27 and Annex V of Regulation 882/2004. The UK harmonised charge for 2015 is given in OVS Note 2014/31 and for 2016 is in OVS Note 2015/33. If your consignment fails the veterinary check, you will be liable to pay storage charges and costs pertaining to disposal or re-export.

Fresh fishery products landed directly from third country vessels are dealt with differently. They are discussed below.

Fresh fish landings from third country-flagged vessels

The main legislation is Directive 97/78/EC, Articles 19(2) & 19(3); Regulation 1093/94; and Regulation 854/2004, Article 15.

In general, the fish has to undergo hygiene checks as with EU-flagged vessels. The landing port must be one authorised to accept landings from third country-flagged fishing vessels. Veterinary checks are not necessarily carried out by the Official Fish Inspector or Authorised Officer.

Landing charges are currently 1 Euro/tonne for the first 50 tonnes in the month, and 0.5 Euro thereafter, payable as specified in Part 2 of The Fishery Products (Official Controls Charges) (England) Regulations 2007 (and similar legislation for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). The relevant EU text is in Regulation 882/2004, Annex V, Section B, Chapter II, 3.

Rejected consignments

Your consignment will be seized if it is presented at an incorrect BIP (Regulation 19(a) of The Trade in Animals and Related Products (TARP) Regulations 2011).

If any of the border checks indicate that the consignment does not satisfy the requirements of relevant European legislation, or the checks reveal an irregularity, the consignment will be detained pending its re-dispatch or destruction (TARP Regulation 20(1)).

If the border checks indicate that the consignment is likely to constitute a danger to animal or human health, the OFI will seize and destroy the product immediately (TARP Regulation 21).

There is one other alternative. According to Regulation 20, if the OFI is of the opinion that the consignment does not pose any risk to public or animal health, he may authorise the product to be used as an animal by-product in accordance with the Animal By-Products Regulations.

The importer or person responsible for the consignment will have to meet the costs of re-dispatch or destruction and any associated storage and transport. Re-dispatch should be from the same BIP and within 60 days of the notice being served.

Reinforced checks may apply following serious or repeated infringements, or where maximum residue levels have been exceeded, detected in any member state (TARP Regulation 22). Reinforced checks will apply to the next ten consignments brought into England from the third country, part of the third country or the establishment from which the non-conforming products originated.

Consignments intended for transit

Animal products arriving in the EU can pose a risk to animal health and the presence of animal products of unknown health status on the quayside for a prolonged period poses a potential risk. Therefore the transhipment of animal products at ports and airports is subject to legal controls.

  • Article 9 of Council Directive 97/78/EC provides for certain consignments arriving at a seaport or airport BIP to be transhipped on to another BIP at which some or all of the veterinary checks would be carried out. (But note that BIPs at which checks are carried out must be approved for the products concerned). These provisions relate only to consignments which do not leave the customs area of the port or airport of the first BIP of arrival and which remain there for less than a pre-determined maximum period of time and leave by the same means of transport (i.e. ship to ship or aircraft to aircraft).
  • The type of checks (if any) carried out at the first BIP depend on whether the products are unloaded onto the quayside or airport tarmac and on the length of time they remain in the port or airport.
  • At the time of arrival, the person responsible for the consignment must notify the OFI of the estimated time of unloading, the BIP of destination and if necessary the exact location of the consignment (Directive 2000/25/EC Art. 1). A CVED must be provided.
  • Consignments to be transhipped will be subject to at least a documentary check if they spend between 12 and 48 hours at an airport or between 7 and 20 days at a seaport. Consignments from one non-EU country with a destination in another non-EU country which tranship in the EU must undergo veterinary checks at this time.
  • Less than 12 hours/7 days: consignments need not be checked.
  • Over 48 hours/20 days or in cases where the OFI deems necessary, consignments will be subject to checks prior to transhipment.

Personal imports

Travellers are allowed to bring into the EU, for their personal consumption, up to 20 kg of fishery products or the weight of one fish if this is higher. Fishery products include fish (gutted or processed) and certain shellfish such as prawns, lobsters, dead mussels and dead oysters. Up to 2 kg of live bivalve molluscs (oysters, mussels etc.) may be imported. There are no such weight restrictions for travellers coming from the Faeroe Islands or Iceland, or from Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, and Switzerland.

There is more information on the European Commission's website here and on the UK.GOV website here.

Customs

Seafood imported from third countries will need to satisfy the requirements set out by HMRC. This means that Customs documents need to be completed, the consignment may have to be subjected to checks by Customs before it is cleared, and Customs duty may have to be paid. Customs officers will in all cases check that the CVED has been released by the OFI.

For further details, check the HMRC website (click here) and particularly the HMRC "Guide to importing and exporting. Breaking down the barriers." Available here (PDF).

A searchable database listing import tariffs, including reduced tariffs as a result of the EU's preferential trade regimes, is available here. An alternative site on www.gov.uk is here.

HMRC requires you to classify your goods with a 10-digit Classification Number. You can obtain help with classifying your goods by calling 01702 366077. However, HMRC advises that you do not rely alone on verbal information given by phone, but that you obtain a legally binding Binding Tariff Information document. See here for further information.

Further information

Further information is available from the following sites: