Import & Export FAQs

Cargo consolidation, also known as cargo groupage, refers to the process of combining and bundling multiple small shipments (cargo) from different shippers, consignees, or traders from the same country of export and purchase into a single larger shipment or container heading to the same destination, country, or point of final customs clearance.

Each of the individual shipments or cargo bundles is entitled to a House Bill of Lading indicating the true actual owner, cargo description, quantity, and weight of the cargo bundle or shipment. This individual House Bill of Lading is the title of ownership that a formal consolidator awards each individual shipment cargo bundle to prove a shipper, trader, and customer’s ownership of that specific cargo. It is also the first document that enables the shipper, trader, or consignee to process their final tax clearances under the acceptable customs clearance procedure and take possession of their cargo

Cargo consolidators are freight forwarding operators or companies that use a carrier or vessel to bundle or group Less than Container Load (LCL) cargo from small and medium-sized importers into one consignment heading to the same destination.

Yes, the Uganda Cargo Consolidators Association (UCCA)

A cargo consolidator is expected to:

  • Be a registered freight forwarding company compliant with international ISO standards.
  • Be licensed and registered with relevant authorities in both consolidating and de-consolidating countries, e.g. Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda Cargo Consolidators Association (UCCA), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Ministry of Works and Transport, and Port Authorities.
  • Have fully established and registered operational offices both in the country of export and import, with fully trained personnel to handle groupage cargo.
  • Have registered warehousing and storage facilities set up where the consolidation process takes place. (For example, China, Dubai, and Turkey)
  • Be registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Uganda Cargo Consolidators Association (UCCA), and the Ministry of Works and Transport to carry out these operations.
  • Comply with acceptable processes, procedures, and policies to facilitate trade and business development.
  • Sensitise and provide relevant information to his or her shippers, traders, or consignees to empower and enable them to carry out proper trade and logistics activities.
  • Exercise integrity, credibility, and transparency in their business and operations.

  • To organise and regulate all the formalised cargo consolidators in Uganda, ensuring they comply with the set acceptable policies and procedures.
  • To strengthen and unify operations in order to attain common goals.
  • Networking opportunities and mentorship programmes, especially through training.
  • Business development and industry standardisation to enable development and growth.

  • A code of conduct has been formulated to guide consolidators in the business.
  • Guidelines on how to operate with other stakeholders in the consolidated framework, including disciplinary measures, are fully communicated to consolidators.
  • Fines and penalties for non-compliance are provided for in the association constitution.

  • Reduction in the cost of doing business. Large resources are shared by many people at a lower cost.
  • Faster customs processing and cargo management without suffering delays and losses caused by someone else or the wrong agents.
  • Importers pay their own taxes with their personal Tax Identification Numbers (TINs), thereby avoiding tax manipulation by brokers and subsequently enjoying tax credits, where applicable.
  • Flexibility in importing small quantities at a minimum cost.
  • Lower capital requirements for businessmen and women to start businesses.
  • Safety, traceability, and guaranteed ownership of goods since every importer has his own House bill.
  • Avoidance of conflicts in the case of tax litigation issues
  • Proper and complete business accountability and management
  • It allows an importer to choose a customs agent of his or her choice for better customs management and interactions.

  • Shipping of small order quantities is made possible, hence allowing an importer to share space in case they can’t fill up a container.
  • Consolidated cargo is shipped and transported up to the Inland Container Depot (ICD), unlike full unconsolidated containers that are discharged at the first port of entry.
  • Cargo consolidators can help in the sourcing of goods and link importers to suppliers at points of origin.
  • Prepaid shipping charges under cargo consolidation, allow an importer stable working capital.
  • Cargo consolidators facilitate the deconsolidation process to allow importers to pay for their own goods.
  • Cargo consolidators sensitise importers on relevant policies, processes, and procedures.

  • Importers run into the risk of tax manipulation by brokers.
  • Goods can easily be confiscated by the tax authorities, and they cannot be claimed since the importer has no House Bill of Lading i.e., ownership document.
  • High import tax liabilities, failure to claim VAT, and utilisation of withholding tax where applicable.
  • Loss of working capital and time from unwarranted delays and penalties.
  • Loan defaults and  loss of security following failure to repay borrowed funds in time caused by unwarranted cargo delays or losses, and this can result in complete business failure.
  • Incomplete business accounting and management resulting from the absence of importation records or data.

  • Commercial documents: quotations, sales contracts, invoices, packing lists, bills of lading, certificates of conformity, and pre-inspection certificates

  • Transactional documents: receipts, Telegraphic Transfer (TT) confirmation copy, if any, and any other documents relating to the transaction of the goods

  • Any exemptions or permits of importation where necessary.

  • An entry is made for cargo at the Internal Container Depot (ICD) under customs supervision.
  • The bond keeper records goods arrivals in the Bonded Warehouse Information Management System (BWIMS)

  • Goods are validated at the barrier office.

  • The consignment is positioned in BWIMS

  • The task is allocated by the in-charge 

  • The container is positioned at the verification point.

  • The consignment is verified by the customs officer, clearing agent/importer, and bond keeper.

  • Reconciliation is done by the officer, specific agents, and the bond keeper.

  • The warehousing entry (IM7) is attached to the verification account.

  • A transaction is released for warehousing .

  • The consolidator initiates a change of ownership from the consolidator to individual importers (de-consolidates) to enable individual clearance of taxes.

  • The importer or agent lodges the home consumption declaration with other supporting documents with Customs and pays the assessed duties and taxes.

  • The declaration and verification findings are vetted by the Customs Document Processing Center (DPC), and where there is conformity, the entry is released.

  • Where there is no conformity, top-up taxes are assessed, paid, and equally released.

  • Upon release, a release message or notification is sent to the bond for loading and subsequent exit of the cargo.

Yes. You can use the platforms below to address Customs- related issues:

     (i)    The URA Touchpoint, accessible via  https://touchpoint.ura.go.ug/

     (ii)    E-mail:    services@ura.go.ug

     (iii)    WhatsApp: +256772140000

     (iv)     URA Offices

     (v)     Toll-free line: 0800117000/0800217000

 

(i)     Transfer of ownership fee

(ii)    Assessed taxes for the cargo

Every importer under consolidated cargo must have their own TIN and make customs payments using that TIN.

 

No. Payments should be made to URA using the different payment platforms provided by URA. Importers should never hand over the payment obligation for taxes exclusively to the cargo consolidators or any broker or agent.

Please note: URA does not receive cash payments.

  • Loading of prohibited items, e.g., used electronics, used motor vehicle tyres, cosmetics with hydroquinone and mercury ,smokeless and flavoured tobacco e.g., shisha.
  • Engaging in the clearance of customs goods without a license from URA Under-declaration and mis-declaration of loaded cargo at the loading points.
  • Concealing of goods.
  • Evasion of customs duties, taxes, or tariffs

A cargo consolidator involved in illegal activities may lose his or her license and be charged penalties for such misconduct as per the East African Community Customs Management Act (EACCMA).

For example; if found importing prohibited, restricted, and uncustomed goods, on conviction, a cargo consolidator shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine equal to fifty percent of the dutiable value of the goods involved, or both.

Genuine consolidators are formally registered freight forwarding companies or operators carrying out consolidation with the recognition and regulation of URSB, UCCA, URA, and the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT). Non-genuine consolidators, on the other hand, are not formally registered, not recognised, noncompliant, and not regulated by the above stakeholders to carry out consolidation.

  1. The importer delivers goods to the consolidator (shipper) of his or her choice in the foreign country (e.g., China, UAE) together with all the documents showing the nature of the packages, a description of the items, as well as the invoices and  packing list.
  2. The individual importers must provide details of their names, contacts, and Tax Identification Number (TIN) to the consolidator at the point of delivery of the goods at the consolidator’s warehouse. These details ought to appear on the Master Bill of Lading (MBL) and the House Bill of Lading (HBL).
  3. Cargo is weighed, marked, and bundled with other smaller cargo belonging to different traders but destined for the same final destination and customs clearance point.
  4. The consolidator ensures that before the goods arrive at the first port of entry, for instance, Mombasa/Dar-es-Salaam, all individual importers in the container have been identified; TIN details indicated on the Master Bill of Lading and have submitted the required purchase documentation, i.e., invoices, evidence of payments, parking lists with a detailed description of goods, quantities, delivery notes, etc.
  5. When goods arrive at the first port of entry in the partner state (e.g., Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam), transit entries are captured to move the goods to the destination bond in Uganda, where final clearance will take place. These customs documents are called WT8 and T1.
  6. When the container arrives at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) or bond, the bond operator and customs officer receive the cargo. WT8/T1 entries are auto-converted to the warehousing entry (IM7). The registered consolidator and the appointed agent handle cargo examinations with customs and upload examination accounts for further processing.
  7. The consolidator then initiates a transfer of ownership from his names to the individual taxpayers they consolidated (breaks bulk). Transfer of ownership fees are paid, and approval of the transfer is done by the Supervisor customs.
  8. All individual importers are required to appoint their own licensed customs agents to take on the process of clearing the items after the consolidator has approved the transfer of ownership.
  9. The individual importers have the option to pay taxes after transfer of ownership approval or continue with the warehousing process as per the warehousing procedures or goods are re-exported. All the purchase documents (invoices, evidence of payments, parking lists with detailed description of goods, quantities, delivery notes, Master and House Bill of  Lading etc.) must be declared and attached to all customs declarations.

This means any place approved by the Commissioner for the deposit of un-entered, unexamined, abandoned, detained, or seized, goods for the security thereof or of the duties due thereon.

For any client to clear with customs, he/she must have a tax identification number (TIN) and appoint a customs licensed clearing agent

The following items may not be warehoused; acids, chalk, ammunitions, explosives, fireworks, dried fish, perishable goods, inflammable products except for petroleum products for storage in approved places, matches and any other goods which the commissioner customs may gazette.

A Single Customs Territory is the full attainment of the Customs Union achievable through removal of trade restrictions including minimization of internal border controls.

It is about achieving free circulation of goods in the Customs Territory in order to reduce the cost of doing business.

The following are the features of the SCT

  • Goods are cleared at the first point of entry;
  • One Customs declaration is made at the destination country
  • Taxes are paid at the point of destination when goods are still at the first point of entry;
  • Goods are moved under a single Regional bond from the port to the destination;
  • Goods are monitored by an electronic cargo tracking system;
  • Interconnected Customs systems;
  • Minimized internal controls/checks

The SCT commenced on 1st January 2014 as a pilot on the Northern Corridor (Kenya,\n Uganda, Rwanda). The pilot on the Central Corridor (Tanzania, Burundi) commenced in\n April 2014.

As at September 2017;\n

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  • All intra Region trade cargo moving within the EAC partner states is cleared under the SCT procedures.
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  • For Maritime Cargo, SCT has been rolled out for selected goods, full roll out at the ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-salaam planned for November 2017.
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  • Rwanda has achieved full roll out of the SCT
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The benefits of SCT include;\n

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  • Reduced turnaround time for transporters.
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  • Reduced clearance time.
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  • Reduced the cost of doing business.
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  • Reduced administrative costs and regulatory requirements.
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  • Reduced the risks associated with non-compliance on the transit of goods;
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  • Enhanced trade in locally produced goods.
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  • Enhanced the relationship between the private and public sectors;
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  • Minimizes smuggling at a regional level;
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  • Efficient revenue management;
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  • Enhanced application of Information Technology and data collection at the regional level.
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  • Synergy through shared resources and utilization of economies of scale.
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The EAC Partner States – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan

Revenue Authorities have deployed officials to the first points of Entry to facilitate the smooth operations of the SCT. URA has deployed officers at Port of Mombasa, different locations in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu, and Port Of Dar es salaam.”

The key stakeholders involved in the SCT include:\n

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  • Importers and exporters
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  • Customs Agents
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  • Transporters
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  • Bonded warehouse owners
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  • Container Freight Stations (CFSs)
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  • Ports Authorities
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  • Shipping Line Agents
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  • Insurance Companies
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  • Other Government Agencies e.g. standards Bureaus
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Yes, Key stakeholders must fulfill some requirements to be able to smoothly transact under the SCT clearance procedures.
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Importers & Exporters

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  • Appoint a licensed clearing agent/or get licensed for own clearance
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  • Develop a working relationship with shipping line agents
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  • Knowledge on SCT process and documentation
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Customs/Clearing Agents

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  • Acquire license from respective Revenue Authorities
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  • Execute a Regional Bond Guarantee
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  • Register with Port Authorities
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  • Develop a working relationship with shipping line agents
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  • Acquire knowledge in SCT & training in other Revenue Authorities Customs systems
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  • Acquire access rights in the other Revenue Authorities Customs systems.
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  • Sensitize their clients
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Transporters

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  • Acquire Transit License from the respective Revenue Authorities
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Customs/Clearing Agents involved in the clearance process may choose to operate under the Mutual Recognition of Customs Agents and/or relocate to the First points of Entry (Dar es Salaam, Mombasa)\n

Note: those who wish to operate businesses in other Partner States must meet the legal requirements for business registration

Customs/Clearing Agents that are licensed by one Partner state are recognized in the other Partner states and are granted access rights to operate in the respective Customs Systems to facilitate the clearance of cargo destined to and from their respective countries.

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