NCTS Phase 5 Technical Interface Specification
Version 6.0 issued 26 January 2023
This document is the first part of the Technical Interface Specification (TIS) for Direct Trader Input (DTI) to the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS).
It shows the processes involved in the exchange of messages between traders and the NCTS at departure and arrival of transit movements, and provides definitions, formats and validations of those messages.
The NCTS is a Europe-wide system that is based on electronic declaration and processing and is designed to provide better management and control of Union and Common Transit. It involves all European Union (EU) member states and all Common Transit Convention (CTC) member countries.
The NCTS systems of all National Administrations are connected to each other by a central domain in Brussels, so the details and progress of a transit movement can be monitored by all interested parties at every stage.
The main objectives of the NCTS are to:
- increase the efficiency and effectiveness of transit procedures
- improve the prevention and detection of fraud
- accelerate transactions carried out under a transit procedure and to offer security for them
To use the NCTS, traders need the facility to send and receive electronic messages to and from the UK NCTS. Connected traders receive electronic responses advising of key decisions during both departure and destination, such as:
- acceptance of declaration
- release of goods
- notification of discharge of liability, that is, the release of the guarantee that is in place throughout the lifespan of the movement to cover the duties at risk during the movement of goods
Traders cannot interface directly with the NCTS to input or amend data or to access records and reference data. Instead, they exchange defined structured messages with the system.
In certain circumstances, where Simplified NCTS Procedures are used by Authorised Consignors/Consignees, processing and release will be automatic and allow, depending upon the conditions of authorisation, for ‘out-of-hours’ clearance. This will allow for selective, risk-based controls, and for the processing of declarations and the release of goods to become largely automatic.
This document provides an overview of the processes involved in the exchange of NCTS messages with traders and defines the messages associated with the NCTS, in particular:
- the trader’s declaration for Transit and the associated Customs response
- control and release of the movement at departure
- the trader’s notification of arrival and the associated Customs response
- control and release of the goods at destination
- registration of any incidents that may occur during transit
These messages comply with the Functional Transit System Specification (FTSS) and Design Documentation for National Transit Application (DDNTA) documents, which are distributed by the EU Commission to National Administrations.
NCTS reference data
The NCTS holds two types of reference data:
common reference data:
- stored in a central system known as Common Services Reference Data (CS/RD2)
- applicable to all contracting parties’ NCTS systems
- used to validate specific fields within trader messages and ensure that they contain acceptable data
national reference data:
- applies locally to the systems of individual countries
- used to validate traders’ details, guarantee information and any authorisations they may hold when submitted in traders’ messages
Reference data within CS/RD2 comprises code lists. Each code list provides data that is used for validation against specific fields within declarations submitted by users, and also within intra-NCTS message exchange.
The latest CS/RD2 data is released overnight on a daily basis. The most volatile code list contained in CS/RD2 is CL 141 Customs Offices, which holds details of all valid Customs Offices for all Common Transit Convention countries and all the transit functions available for each office, such as Office of Departure (DEP), Office of Destination (DES) and Office of Transit (TRA).
It is essential that any software solution developed for traders retrieves these updates on a daily basis to ensure that any validation coded into the software is synchronised with the UK NCTS to prevent unnecessary rejections.
CS/RD2 is maintained by the European Commission and you can download code lists here. When downloading code lists, ensure that you select NCTS-P5 in the Domain list.
National reference data
This is administered by each national customs administration on its own behalf. When a trader applies to use the transit procedure, specific data is captured into the NCTS, including the trader’s name and address, their EORI number, details about guarantees for transit usage that they hold and, in the case of Authorised Consignors/Consignees, details of their authorised locations and their allocated code numbers. When traders use these details in declarations, they are validated against the national reference data held by the NCTS.
The UK NCTS system comprises two separate NCTS cores, one processes Great Britain mainland transit movements while the other processes transit movements within Northern Ireland.
The two cores have different modes of operation:
- the Great Britain mainland NCTS core operates in Common Transit mode, so if a rule or condition has different applicability depending on whether the country of departure or destination or transit is within the territory of the EU or a separate CTC member country, that rule or condition will be applied to Great Britain mainland as a CTC member country
- the Northern Ireland NCTS core operates in Union Transit mode, so a territory dependent rule or condition will be applied to Northern Ireland as if it is part of EU territory.
This is an important consideration for any traders who intend to implement any rules or conditions to validate declarations for themselves or their customers.
Both cores have entirely separate common and national reference data, so they have separate country codes:
- Great Britain mainland NCTS uses GB as its country prefix
- Northern Ireland NCTS uses XI as its country prefix
The NCTS needs region-specific reference data, such as Customs Office codes, guarantee reference numbers and Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers (also known as the Trader Identification Numbers) to include the applicable country code.
- Dover port in Great Britain mainland has the Customs office code GB000060
- Belfast Entry Process Unit in Northern Ireland has the Customs office code XI000142
Additionally, authorised locations used by Authorised Consignors and Consignees exist only in the NCTS appropriate to their physical location.
Because authorised location codes are linked to the Authorised Consignor/nees’ EORI and EORIs are linked to the procedure holder’s guarantee, any software developed for the NCTS should allow use of GB EORIs and their associated GB guarantees and XI EORIs and their associated XI guarantees.
Although two separate cores are in operation, only one submission channel is used to access the UK NCTS. You can submit Great Britain mainland or Northern Ireland messages without the need to add any routing information. Your messages will be routed automatically to the correct core by a logic layer embedded in the CTC Traders API.
Access to UK NCTS
Traders can use the CTC Traders API channel to exchange XML messages with both UK NCTS cores (GB and XI). This allows 3rd party developer software to use XML for message payloads when sending and receiving arrival and departure notifications.
The CTC Traders API provides:
- full Great Britain mainland and Northern Ireland integration
- a single endpoint for both Great Britain mainland and Northern Ireland declarations
Liability amount for guarantees
Guarantee usage monitoring in the NCTS requires that a liability reference amount is recorded against each guarantee in a declaration.
Departure declarations submitted by users (IE015 message) can contain guarantee reference amounts only for guarantee types 0, 1, 2, 4 and 9. For all other guarantee types, Border Force will enter the reference amount into the NCTS manually before releasing the movement.
In exceptional circumstances, if a declarant is unable to determine the guarantee reference amount, the CTC allows the amount to be fixed at 10,000 euros for each transit operation.
If the departure declaration does not contain a guarantee reference amount and the guarantee being used is either type 0, 1, 2, 4 or 9, the system inserts 10,000 euros as the guarantee liability amount automatically.
This applies in all circumstances except for national transit movements, for example, Great Britain to Great Britain. National transit is not supported by the CTC but UK national legislation allows its usage as a trade facilitation.
Transit Accompanying Document / Transit Security Accompanying Document
A Transit Security Accompanying Document (TSAD) is needed for declarations containing safety and security data. A Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) is required for all other declarations. TADs/TSADs must be created by using information only from IE029 messages.
TADs/TSADs are electronically authenticated by the NCTS, so they do not need to be authenticated by the Office of Departure (OoDep) by stamp. A Common Transit (CT) movement cannot be released from transit legally until after the relevant IE029 message has been generated by Customs and a valid TAD/TSAD has been created.
A TAD/TSAD should be created using only data that has been validated or provided by the NCTS. This can be achieved by generating the TAD/TSAD direct from the IE029 message either electronically or through printing it manually, or by using data from the relevant IE029 message to update a previously created and validated transit record, and then creating the TAD/TSAD from that.
Traders using the NCTS normal procedure will have the option either to collect the TAD/TSAD from the OoDep or to generate the TAD/TSAD at their own premises. Approval to create the TAD/TSAD is granted by the Central Community Transit Office (CCTO), to which a trader’s application must be submitted for consideration. Traders must provide evidence of their ability to create TADs/TSADs in the required format.
Traders authorised to use NCTS simplified procedures as Authorised Consignors can generate their own TADs/TSADs as part of their authorisation permission.
Authorised Consignors are obliged to hold special stamps to authenticate documents in case of system failure so that they can authorise their own fallback documents. Authorised Consignors also require a Commission-approved stamp that informs the Office of Destination (OoDest) that fallback has been used.
Manually printing TADs/TSADs
Guidelines for printing a TAD are contained in Part IV, Chapter 2, Annex 8.1 of the Transit Manual (PDF) of the European Commission.
For specifications relating to the printing of a paper TSAD, see Guidelines for the Printout of the Transit/Security Accompanying Document (TSAD) and the Transit/Security List of Items (TSLoI).
An IE029 message will specify the number of copies required for a printed TAD/TSAD. If a return copy is required, that is, HEADER.NCTS return copy is set, two copies of the TAD/TSAD will be required. Otherwise, only one needs to be printed. A return copy is required if an OoDest is not yet using the NCTS.
The ‘liability amount’ information in the guarantee data group is not printed on a TAD/TSAD.
If a declaration contains only one goods item, all the information for the movement is included in the TAD. If the declaration contains more than one goods item, all the goods items are included in the LoI (List of Items). However, if the declaration contains safety and security data, the goods item information (even if there is only one goods item) is always included in the TSAD LoI.
The printer and print driver, used for printing the TAD/TSAD, must be capable of printing a bar code of standard ISO code 128 set B (but not EAN128).
The font type is BC C128 Narrow (True Type) version 2.0.
Phase 5 cutover period
UK NCTS phase 5 is due to go live on 16 November 2023. To meet the requirements of the Common Transit Convention (CTC), all member countries must transfer to phase 5 by 30 November 2023.
There will be a cutover period between 16 and 30 November 2023. During this period, the NCTS phase 4 service will continue running to deal with in-flight transit declarations submitted before 16 November while the phase 5 service will handle all new declarations.
Note: The phase 5 service will not hold information about any declarations submitted before 16 November 2023.
During the cutover period, the following rules in this specification will be used to handle transit movements:
Important phase 5 terms
The following terms are important to understand in phase 5:
- Consignment: The header information is provided and applies to the whole transit declaration (up to 1 Consignment level per declaration).
House Consignment: The lowest transport information is provided, and this applies to all its Consignment Items (each Consignment can contain up to 99 House Consignments).
The House Consignment level covers information relating to all goods that are subject to the same house transport contract. A house transport contract is a transport contract with a freight forwarder, non-vessel or aircraft operating common carrier or its agent or a postal operator. Where several house transport contracts exist, the information provided in customs declarations, notifications and proof of the customs status as Union Goods should relate to the lowest level of contracts. This is usually the contract concluded by a freight forwarder and the shipper.
The new House Consignment level is introduced to give more flexibility to the Economic Operators, allowing them to lodge one declaration with several Consignors/Consignees.
Consignment Item: The items information is provided (each House Consignment can contain up to 999 Consignment Items).
You can find the changelog in the ctc-traders-phase5-tis GitHub wiki.