Tilbury - Zeebrugge

Initial Steps

  1. Register for an EORI number
  2. If you are moving goods into or out of the UK, you will need a UK EORI number – if you do not already have one, you can apply here. If your business is also responsible for completing the import declaration when the goods are imported into the EU, you will also need an EU EORI number which you can obtain from the customs authority in the EU country where you submit your first customs declaration. You only need to register once for each.

  3. Responsibility for the import and export declarations
  4. Determine whether you will submit import and/or export declarations to each customs authority yourself or whether you will use a forwarder or customs agent for this. You must decide with your supply-chain partners as to who is responsible for the relevant declaration documentation.

  5. Make your booking with P&O Ferries
  6. Make your initial booking in the same way you always have. Please inform us if you:

    • are shipping an empty vehicle;
    • intend to make a full customs declaration; or
    • intend to ship goods under the Common Transit Convention.

    Depending on the type of goods you may need to submit additional information about your booking, consignment and goods. If you have made your booking online or via the FBO, you will also need to submit this information via the P&O Ferries Freight Portal. If you have made an EDI booking, this information will be automatically sent to the relevant P&O Ferries system without needing to be input into the P&O Ferries Freight Portal.

    To add or change Multiple Load Lines (MLL) to a booking this can be done using the latest version of EDI or through the P&O Ferries Freight Portal. Please note that the weight in the initial booking must be the same as the cumulative weight of multiple load lines and all hazardous goods must still be booked through the relevant Freight Booking Office (FBO). 

  7. Pre-lodge customs declarations
  8. You will need to pre-lodge an export declaration with HMRC and an import declaration with Belgian customs. You can either do this directly or via a nominated customs agent on your behalf. If you are moving goods via the Transit Convention, you will need a UK export declaration and a transit declaration. You will also need to advise the Freight Booking Office where the shipment will terminate (the Office of Destination) and the MRN number.

    • UK export process
    • UK export declarations need to be lodged via HMRC’s CHIEF system. Each entry will generate a D-UCR (Unique Consignment Reference). If you are transporting multiple consignments in a shipment (groupage) this must be entered into the system in the form of a M-UCR (Multiple Consignment Reference), an envelope containing multiple D-UCRs. 

      The M-UCR allows these grouped D-UCRs to be processed for onward travel in one movement, rather than each having to be departed individually. P&O Ferries require that where possible, you or your nominated agent use this approach for multiple consignments.

      EXS declarations

      Please note that as of 1 October 2021, the temporary waiver on Exit Summary Declarations (EXS) ended, meaning that an EXS will be mandatory for ALL UK Exports that do not already require a full Customs Declaration as set out above. This includes:

      • Empty units (vehicles, lift units, trailers), empty returns packaging, stillage’s and pallets etc
      • Movements under Transit formalities (That do not require a full Customs Declaration)

      There are two options for submitting your EXS declaration:


      • If you require assistance completing the EXS declaration P&O can help by completing this in CHIEF on your behalf via our new Customs Clearance Service. There is a fixed fee for using this service of €10/£8.60. This service can be accessed by e-mailing customs@poferries.com.
      • The details necessary for us to make the EXS declaration in CHIEF on your behalf must be provided to P&O via a template (which will be supplied on request) at least 24 hours before the unit is sent to the port. The unit/vehicle must not be delivered to the terminal until the EXS declaration has been created to prevent additional handling costs.
      • On arrival at the terminal, Permission to Progress (P2P) will be requested if the UCR is in place and is valid.


      • Either you or your nominated Customs Agent will create the EXS declaration in HMRC’s CHIEF system as set out above – after which you must provide P&O with your D-UCR.
      • This can be transmitted to P&O either via EDI or the Freight Portal against the booking before the unit arrives at the terminal.
      • On arrival at the terminal, Permission to Progress (P2P) will be requested if the UCR is in place and is valid.

      An EXS declaration must be submitted to CHIEF before the unit arrives at the terminal. This is essential to maintain smooth operations and a constant flow within our terminals, and to avoid disruption and congestion. For this reason, failure to advise P&O before port arrival may result in the unit/vehicle being refused entry to the terminal or additional handling charges having to be applied by the port operator.

      The graphic below sets out how these two options work step-by-step.


    • Belgian import process
    • Belgian customs will require you to supply supplementary booking information and Safety and Security information. To do this you must again access the P&O Ferries Freight Portal and input the information in there in addition to the load details that previously supplied. This will also apply to Empty Units, but for Empty Units you will only be required to detail the type of Empty Unit you are shipping. Again, the exception is for customers who book via EDI, as the Safety and Security information will already have been transmitted to us.

      Please also ensure that you or your nominated agent notify all customs documents for EU import via RX Seaport, the Belgian Port Community System. If you have not already done so, please register with RX Seaport ahead of the end of the transition period and familiarise yourself with the new process for importing goods into Belgium. 

  9. Provide UK customs information to P&O Ferries
  10. Once these declarations have been accepted in CHIEF, you or your nominated agent (the declarant) will need to provide P&O Ferries with the details of your D-UCRs or M-UCRs to be input into the UK Port Community System of Destin8. There are two ways in which you can do this: 

    • Export Self Nominate
    • The Export Self Nominate (ESN) function is now available for use on Destin8 with our service, and we would strongly encourage you to make the declaration/entry directly to speed up the process for your shipments. To be able to utilise this functionality in Destin8, you or your nominated agent as the declarant, must have a Destin8 Badge Code. Any holds or releases are automatically notified to Destin8 badge holders, meaning you are able to view information relevant to your consignment in real time. This includes expected/actual arrival times, cargo landed/loaded status, Customs clearance status, out-gated/in-gated status and much more.

      Information on how to use Destin8 is provided by MCP/Destin8 Customer Services Help Desk on +44(0)1394 600205 or e-mail to help@destin8.co.uk. The full list of costs can be found on the MCP website.

    • Providing the information to P&O Ferries
    • You or your nominated agent (as the declarant) provides the DUCR/MUCR to P&O Ferries for association with the Destin8 inventory record.

    This step must be completed within the current booking cut-off times and prior to your unit (accompanied or un-accompannied unit) arriving at the port. The cut-off for bookings information and the supply of Customs details/documentation is 1200hrs on the day of departure. This is to ensure that all information is provided so that your vehicle/unit is shipped on your booked departure once Permission to Progress is authorised (P2P).

    This does NOT affect your export check-in/drop off times and all vessel cut-off times will remain as they do today.

  11. Animal or Plant Products
  12. If you are despatching a lorry that contains animal or plant products, you should ensure that the driver has the necessary health certificate(s). For more information about importing animal or plant products into Belgium post-Brexit please visit the website of the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. If you will require a physical veterinary inspection in Zeebrugge, please make an appointment with the Border Inspection Post – the contact details can be found here.

Prior to arrival at Tilbury

Please ensure the driver has a copy of all the required documents for both the UK export and EU import customs processes, before reaching the port of departure, either in hard copy or digital. Please also ensure that the driver has at least six months left on their passport in order to be able enter Belgium.

Please also ensure that the driver has the necessary plant/animal health certificates if applicable. 

Upon arrival at Tilbury

Drivers should complete our standard check-in process and move to the loading lanes in preparation to board the vessel (accompanied) or take the trailer where instructed within the yard (unaccompanied) prior to loading.

Once P&O Ferries notifies Destin8 that the consignment has entered the port, Destin8 will notify CHIEF of the arrival. If all declarations have been lodged correctly for UK export, your goods will be granted permission to progress meaning that your trailer will be loaded onboard.

During the sailing

Upon commencement of the voyage, P&O Ferries will compile an import manifest consisting of the consignment level information and the safety and security information. This will then be reconciled against the information previously submitted to RX Seaport, and assuming all declarations have been lodged correctly for Belgian import, the goods will be cleared for entry into Zeebrugge by Belgian authorities.

The importer or the customs agent should check the Belgian Customs system PLDA (PaperLess Customs and Excise) and once the goods have cleared, take the MRN from Belgian customs and enter it into the RX Seaport e-Desk. This will then send an update to P&O, informing us that the goods may leave the quay. RX Seaport is working with Belgian customs on a longer-term solution that will cut out the need for this manual step with the clearance notification following automatically from PLDA to RX Seaport and then onto P&O.

Arrival in Zeebrugge

If cleared upon arrival, accompanied units will be able to exit the port and unaccompanied units will be unloaded prior to pick-up. If not cleared, both accompanied and unaccompanied units will enter the local temporary storage process and be placed under a temporary custom hold. The unit will not be able to exit the terminal in Zeebrugge until the required customs declarations are completed.

If required, health inspections of animals and animal products and plants and plant products will take place prior to exiting the port.

If you need help with import/export status, associated data correctness or releasing stranded units, please contact us on Manifest.Support.Zeebrugge@POferries.com. The help desk is available Monday to Friday 06:00 to 22:00, Saturday 06:00:00 to 14:00 and Sunday from 08:00 to 16:00.

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