Many amazing people, groups and charities across the UK have rallied together to collect supplies such as clothing, bedding, sanitary products and medicine to send to Ukraine to help those in need. In this article I will list a summary of the steps you should take to ensure you have the best chance of your aid getting through successfully. A full list of resource websites can be found at the bottom of this page.
Why can’t I just take the goods
Even though the goods are emergency aid you need to follow the guidelines to comply with UK and European customs. Many may feel the need to just fill and vehicle and drive but you could get held up at customs and even turned back. The Evening Standard reported on such an event recently which took several days to resolve (read the story here).
UK Customs easement to help Ukraine aid exports
The help speed up the customs processes and avoid delays for aid the UK government introduced a simplified ‘customs easement‘ process on 10th March.
The simplification of customs processes will apply to goods intended to support those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine which are exported from Great Britain. Provided the goods are not exported to, or through, Russia or Belarus, then these simplified processes apply to qualifying goods regardless of the destination to allow maximum flexibility to get aid to where the need is greatest.
The government still recommends that organisations and people, who would like to help, donate cash through trusted charities and aid organisations, rather than donating goods. Cash can be transferred quickly to areas where it is needed and individuals and aid organisations can use it to buy what is most needed (link in the references at the bottom of this page).
However, businesses, charities and community organisations sending aid from British ports will be able to make a customs declaration by speaking to customs officers or simply by the act of driving through a port.
They will no longer need to complete and submit electronic customs declarations to HMRC before exporting these goods, and smaller movements will not need to use the Goods Vehicle Movement Service to pass through ports where it is in operation.
The easement will also remove other customs formalities, such as needing to notify HMRC when the goods have been exported.
The easement, which excludes all controlled goods and dual use goods, will be in place for a limited time, which will be announced in due course.
How to prepare your goods
Not all goods are covered by the simplified customs process. Create a manifest of what is included in the aid shipment by cataloguing and listing all the goods collected and sort them into commodities, for example blankets, clothes, sanitary products. Be sure to list the quantity of each item. Keep several copies of this manifest with the goods.
If boxing up the goods, try to pack similar items together and be sure to write the description and quantities of the contents on the outside of each box. List the total number of boxes on the manifest and ideally number each one as part of the shipment. For example: if there are 20 boxes in total each one should be labelled “1 of 20”, “2 of 20” etc.. This will help should the goods need to be inspected at a later stage.
Ensure you have full contact details available or the contact details of the organisation or charity you are moving the goods on behalf of.
Check if you can use the simplified process
Before you set off check if you have any goods which cannot be processed using the simplified process. If any of the goods fall under the following exclusions they will need to be removed from the shipment:
- Controlled goods such as military items, dual use items (both civilian and military use) or firearms
- Medicines you do not have a licence to distribute
- Excise goods such as fuel, tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol
- Goods subject to sanctions (see references below)
Transporting the Goods out of the UK
Small Vehicle: If the goods are being transported by a light goods vehicle (3.5 tonnes or less) you can make an oral declaration at the export port. Check the port you are using has a red ‘goods to declare‘ channel or a red point phone using the references below. If there is no red channel then you can simply drive through the port or green channel.
Freight or Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) : You will need to register to use the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (details in references below) and will need to have an EORI number to declare the goods.
If you have any questions or doubts contact the Export Support Team here: https://www.gov.uk/ask-export-support-team or the Export Support Service (ESS) helpline 0300 303 8955 which can be used by individuals, businesses or charities.
How to donate
With such overwhelming support many charities have set up local drop off points for goods. You will need to check with your local charities, such as Unicef and The British Red Cross, if they have a specific requirement for goods. For more information see the news stories below:
Ukraine crisis: how you can help from the UK by donating cash and supplies
The charities taking donations to help Ukraine refugees and those on the front line
Taking humanitarian aid out of Great Britain to support Ukraine
List of UK airports and seaports with red channels or red point phones
Register for the Goods Vehicle Movement Service
List of ports using the Goods Vehicle Movement Service
The Customs (Import and Export Declarations) (Amendment) Regulations 2022
Disasters Emergency Committee – Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal
Evening Standard Story: Customs red tape is delaying Ukraine aid delivery, charities say