Empty means of transport

If a transport company imports or exports empty means of transport (such as containers, trailers, wagons and pallets) across the EU border which are not its own and for which a transport contract has been drawn up, an entry or exit summary declaration must be provided for them.

Empty means of transport carried on vessels or aircraft that arrive directly from an EU port or airport, or from Norway or Switzerland, need not be declared using a summary declaration.

An entry or exit summary declaration must be submitted within the given time limit defined for each mode of transport. 

  • When an empty means of transport arrives in the EU, the transport company or a representative presents the MRN of the entry summary declaration.
  • When goods are carried by road, it is recommended that the MRN and the container number be presented in the form of an entry in the journey authorisation or in another document carried with the transport.
  • When carrying goods by sea and rail, an electronic presentation notification is to be used.
  • Containers that have been rented for the company’s own use are regarded as the company’s means of transport and summary declarations need not be submitted for them.

Points to consider

Provide both the commodity code and a verbal description of an empty container. The text ‘EMPTY CONTAINER’ should be entered as the verbal description. In road traffic, the container number must also be provided. In railway traffic, enter ‘EMPTY WAGON’ as the description.

The code NE (unpacked) can be entered as the ‘kind of packages’, in which case the number of means of transport (e.g. containers) is entered as the number of pieces. The identification number must be entered under ‘container identification number’, even if the container number has been entered under the description. The weight provided for an empty container or other means of transport is the unladen mass of the container or other means of transport.

If an empty container or other means of transport carried under a transport contract is returned without providing a separate consignment note concerning the return, the consignment note drawn up for the purpose of exporting the goods is provided as the transport document, which contains an entry on returning the empty container.

As consignor of the empty container that is to be returned, enter the operator who has received the cargo that was transported in the container. The container storage operator at the port can be entered as the consignee. The holder of the empty container who has requested its return can also be entered as consignor and consignee.

The tare weight of the empty container or other means of transport must be provided in the entry summary declaration. Customs’ system will reject any declarations where the gross mass is provided as 0 (zero).


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