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08 Apr 2022

How to Ensure Your Goods Clear GCC Customs

How to Ensure Your Goods Clear GCC Customs

The customs clearance process at international borders is the most complex part of your parcel’s journey. Unless you take the time to study the myriad rules and regulations impacting cross-border delivery, your customers may experience frustrating delays in receiving their orders.

Even within the GCC, which is a regional political and economic union, customs regulations differ from country to country—and they often change from day to day.

Engaging a 3PL company as a delivery partner, or at the very least employing agents at borders to steer your goods through the bureaucratic tangles, will help ensure your orders do not become bogged down in border bottlenecks.

Factors Affecting Customs Clearance

Many factors can influence whether your goods will clear customs smoothly or be delayed—sometimes for days.

  • However, the main causes of delays at the border are as follows:
  • Incorrect or incomplete documentation accompanying the goods


 - Failure to follow local customs rules and regulations to the letter


 - Customs authority staff shortages


 - Extreme weather


 - High value shipments require special governmental approval 


  • Some items require approval by the relevant ministry. 


Know the Rules—or Engage Someone Who Does

International customs rules and regulations change frequently, making it difficult to stay up to date. What is acceptable one day may not be acceptable the next.

Getting it wrong could, at best, lead to a hold-up at customs and, at worst, to your goods being sent back to their origin—or even confiscated. Such problems, of course, are likely to impact your customers’ satisfaction and dent your commercial image.

So, if you are in the business of selling internationally, you should certainly think of engaging a dedicated 3PL company, or an agent with specialized local knowledge, to handle your cross-border customs clearance for you.

The Hallmarks of a Valuable Logistics Partner

You will know that you have found a good cross-border logistics partner if they provide you with the following services:

  1. Continual updates about local rules and regulations.
  1. Informed advice on how to deal with any customs rule changes.
  1. Accurate information about documentation and how to complete it to meet customs requirements.
  1. An integrated online tracking system that allows you to follow a parcel at every stage of its journey, including cross-border tracking.

Documents You May Need for International Deliveries

While the list may differ from one border entry point to another, in general goods crossing international frontiers need to be accompanied by the following documents:

  • Bill of lading

  • Packing list

  • Transport insurance certificate

  • Proof of delivery

  • Certificate of origin

  • Customs invoice. 


Main Reasons for Cross-Border Shipping Delays

According to a number of surveys, these are some of the main causes of delays at customs:



### 1. Erroneous or Missing Information on Customs Invoice

The most common information issues causing customs invoices to be rejected or queried by border authorities include:

  • Not using the shipping company’s letterhead as required by many countries. 

  • Incorrect phone number. Make sure you provide the full telephone number of both the shipper and recipient of the goods, complete with the correct country and area codes.

  • Omission of the receiver’s tax ID number.


. Not specifying the Incoterms, or terms of sale. It is necessary to state clearly, for example, if your parcel is being shipped DDP (Delivery Duty Paid) or DDU (Delivery Duty Unpaid). This has major implications for the shipping and delivery of the parcel, as we explain in another of our blog posts on the subject.


  • Incorrect currency code. 

  • Not clarifying the type of export or import—for example, permanent, temporary, or for repair.


2. HTS Code Error

This code constitutes a standardized global system for understanding what products are being shipped. The HTS code helps overcome language barriers and allows customs officials internationally to assess the duties attached to the goods. If you use the wrong code in your shipping documentation, your consignment might well be rejected.

3. Value Discrepancies

Many people underestimate the importance of the need to provide realistic values of the goods being shipped. Improbable values will certainly be queried by customs officials. The customs invoice must have a value even if the goods being shipped are not for sale or resale. The total quantity and value should match the value on the air waybill (AWB).

4. Inaccurate Descriptions

A general description of the goods should be provided on the (AWB) and the Bill of lading and a full description should be present on each line item of the customs invoice. Vague descriptions will not get past customs officials.

5. Incorrect Country of Origin

The terms Country of Origin (COO) and country of manufacture are often confused. It is best to look at it from the perspective of the customs official to get it right. The shipping departure point of the goods is not necessarily in the country of origin. 

In the eyes of customs authorities, the COO is where the goods are manufactured, either completely or in part according to the destination country’s rules of origin or the agreed-on rules of a trade agreement. 

Go Digital for Increased Efficiency

A good way to reduce cross-border shipping problems is to digitize all your documents. Shipping companies have traditionally used paper documents, which are then manually handled by many people during the delivery process.

The process is slow and cumbersome, and documents are easily misplaced or damaged.  Going digital means all parties can know the status of the shipment in real-time. If a document goes missing or has been completed incorrectly, a new one can be transmitted quickly, minimizing delays and reducing operational costs.

The Complications of Customs Clearance in the GCC

Trading across GCC borders can sometimes seem a bit like walking through a minefield. One misstep and the journey will come to a sticky end.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional political and economic union incorporating Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, is working to make cross-border trade between these states more efficient, although their efforts have yet to yield substantial results.

The GCC constituent countries all have nationally applicable rules and regulations which are in constant flux. Only dedicated clearance agents can stay up to date with all the changes in each country’s border governance policies.

Shipa Delivery specializes in deliveries within and between the GCC countries and has contacts and agents at all regional border crossings. We keep on top of the rules too, so you don’t have to.

When it comes to international shipments by air, Shipa Delivery will ensure that your parcel clears customs at Dubai Airport in less than 8 hours by Courier Baggage Voucher (CBV) and in less than 16 hours with an AWB.

Do You Need a Partner for GCC Customs Clearance?

If you feel confident enough negotiating the labyrinthine GCC customs clearance processes, by all means, go it alone—but be prepared for the possibility of setbacks, delays, and frustrations. 

Border officials are notoriously unpredictable. What they may allow through unimpeded one day, they may deem inadmissible the next.

If you ship many items a month through a variety of international frontiers, it will certainly be worth partnering with a 3PL company or a team of agents to guide your goods through customs.

Contact Shipa Delivery’s help center to discuss how we can help you with customs clearance, deliver your cross-border orders securely and quickly, and provide you with complete peace of mind about your GCC logistics activity.