Guidance on importing goods for disaster relief

Bermuda Customs puts into practice a recommendation of the World Customs Organization (WCO) aimed at speeding up the forwarding of relief consignments in the event of disasters. In the case of imports, Customs permits the duty free release of goods on presentation of the relevant cargo manifest.  No import declaration or monetary security is required upon the importation of relief consignments.  No export declaration is required for temporary imports of emergency items.

What is a disaster?

The term ‘disaster’ is to be taken to include both man-made and natural disasters.  Man-made disasters include hazardous material spills, fires, groundwater contamination, transportation accidents, structural failures, explosions and acts of terrorism. Natural disasters include floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geologic processes. Disaster also means epidemic and pandemic emergencies: involving a sudden onset of contagious disease. 

Qualifying goods

The arrangements do not apply to prohibited goods, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages; but they are normally expected to cover:

  • food
  • medicines
  • bandages and dressings
  • clothing
  • bedding
  • tents
  • prefabricated buildings
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • water purifying and storage equipment
  • pollution control products and equipment
  • equipment, vehicles, specially trained animals, provisions, supplies and other goods for disaster relief personnel, and
  • other goods of prime necessity forwarded as aid to those affected by disaster.

Who can import relief consignments?

The following organizations and their agents (including contracted emergency response services) are authorized to import relief consignments:

  • the Government of Bermuda
  • foreign governments
  • United Nations agencies
  • the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and
  • overseas emergency response services

Procedure on import

On each occasion a relief consignment is imported, the organization or agent must send an email with the relevant manifest attached to requesting release of the relevant relief consignment. The email message should contain the following information:

  • subject line “Relief consignment”
  • vessel and voyage No./ airline and flight No.
  • port of arrival
  • arrival date and time
  • name of requesting organization or agent

Customs will respond by return email with either a query or a release note which can be presented to the relevant port terminal operator to obtain delivery of the relief consignment.  If email is unavailable then the manifest can be presented to a customs officer at the relevant port of entry for manual release stamping.

Imports to Home Use

For disaster relief consignments that will remain in or be used up in Bermuda, a Bermuda Customs Declaration must be submitted to Customs within 30 business days of the date of their importation or within such longer period as the Collector of Customs may in writing allow.  The declarant should specify Customs Procedure Code (CPC) 4195 (Goods for pollution control) or CPC 4183 (Humanitarian Aid) as appropriate. 

Temporary Imports

For temporary imports of disaster relief consignments, no import or export declaration is required.  Only the manifest should be presented to Customs on importation.