Do I need a Pre-Boarding Notification or a Goods Movement Reference to transport goods overseas in a vehicle?

The short answer is very probably. The long answer is a bit more complicated as it depends on which ports you are transporting your goods from and to, but we hope this short article will clarify some of the issues around Pre-Boarding Notifications (PBN) and Goods Movement References (GMR), what they are and when you might need them.

Acorn International's International Trade Services team have been providing export documentation to UK exporters for decades, for example, ATA Carnets, Customs Declarations and Certificates of Origin. Recently, we have seen several customers get into difficulties when they have not followed our instructions upon receiving their export documentation. We understand it can seem overwhelming, particularly if you haven’t exported before, or if you haven’t used these documents post-leaving the EU, as regulations have changed.  

In one instance a customer was travelling from Holyhead to Dublin, exporting their goods temporarily for trade show purposes, using a ATA Carnet. The customer had successfully left the UK border, travelled by ferry to Ireland and it was upon entering Dublin Port that they experienced a problem. When a customer applies for a Carnet from us, we provide them with instructions that prior to their trip they must obtain a PBN, both inbound and outbound by emailing with details of their trip and export documentation. The customer receives their PBN by email. Unfortunately, because the customer did not inform Ireland Customs and Revenue in advance, the customer’s goods and van were impounded overnight. They then had to return to the UK in the morning on the next Ferry, so they missed their trade show but still incurred all the costs of their trip, in addition to their overnight accommodation. This was an unfortunate and expensive oversight, and we have permission to share this story to ensure other exporters get their PBN prior to leaving the UK.

The PBN system in Ireland is like the Goods Movement Reference (GMR) system in the UK. When you are exporting out of a UK port a GMR is often required, which essentially allows you to declare your goods in advance of travelling on HMRC’s Goods Vehicle Movement System (GVMS). The advantage of this is that pre-lodging your declarations allows for faster customs clearance. You present the GMR to the carrier (ferry, shuttle train) to prove that all the goods have pre-lodged declarations in place and then get on with your journey! It is necessary to have a GMR in both directions when exiting the UK and returning to the UK. It is important to note that GMRs also apply to personal cars and vans, not just hauliers. 

To check which ports require pre-lodged declarations: 
To obtain a GVM number to get the goods through customs:

So, to return to the question “Do I need a Pre-Boarding Notification or a Goods Movement Reference to transport goods overseas in a vehicle?”, if you are taking goods from the UK to Ireland, yes you need a Pre-Boarding Notification, and if you are transporting goods from the UK to Europe via other ports you will need to check whether you will need to pre-lodge them using the Goods Vehicle Movement Service and this will depend on the port you are using. If you are using major ports like Dover, Eurotunnel, Felixstowe, Harwich and Liverpool, then you will need a GMR. The situation is further complicated by the fact that currently some ports only require a GMR one way, for example, Felixstowe needs a GMR for imports but not for exports. So, it is important to check!