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Musicians are finding it hard to survive. Brexit has been a hammer blow, Coronavirus has been a hammer blow, and now everyone is trying to tour and release music all at the same time. Audiences are overwhelmed with new music and concerts to go to. It’s hard for people to know what to choose with limited financial resources. Ticket sales are down, merch sales are down, every band with the ability to do so is out touring and asking for support. There’s little or no significant money coming in from downloads or streaming platforms. But it’s not all bleak….there are lots of things to do.
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If you have Tour Dates in Ireland and you’re travelling with a Carnet for your Musical Equipment, Mark at Iron Man Records explains how to keep it simple when crossing the UK/EU Border in a Splitter Van.
I took Sinead O’Brien to Ireland in October 2022 working as Tour Manager via Holyhead to Dublin Port. Here’s what I would recommend if you have Tour Dates to play, the UK/EU Border to cross, and a Carnet for Musical Equipment to deal with.
The first thing to do is book your Ferry as required. Be sure to buy a “Passenger” ticket for a 9 seater Splitter van as it is classified as a “passenger carrying vehicle.” Don’t go on a “Freight” ticket. I bought a Flexi ticket from Irish Ferries, it worked out £622.00 return. I chose Irish Ferries as their departure times were most suitable for our travel plans. But you can also go with Stena Line. I prefer Stena Line, but Irish Ferries worked out cheaper and sailed at the time we needed.
I chose a “Flexi” ticket as it’s valid for a year from date of purchase, ideal if plans change or there’s any delay with getting the Carnet stamped, and you need to move the booking to a different time. The ticket is also refundable if something happens. Don’t try and do the UK Carnet and Ferry on the same day. Always allow extra time in case something happens.
We travelled to Holyhead from London and did the Carnet on the way to the Hotel. We caught the ferry the following morning to be sure we didn’t get delayed handling the Carnet. When we arrived in Dublin Port we did the Carnet on the way to our first show. Luckily for us it didn’t take long. It was the same on the way back, We did Dublin Port Carnet and then the Ferry on the way back to Holyhead. We did the UK Carnet after we checked out of our hotel the following morning on the way back to London. Don’t try doing it all in one day, you will only get yourself in a mess. For those who haven’t used a Carnet before, you have to get 4 sets of stamps. One leaving UK, one entering Ireland/EU, one leaving Ireland/EU, and one last one returning to the UK. I advise getting each stamp within 24 hours of Travel across the Border.
There are many Inland Border Facilities to choose from. You don’t need to book Holyhead in advance, you can turn up anytime you like. Holyhead inland border facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You only need to attend the inland border facility if you’re travelling through Holyhead and you’re moving goods:
– under the Common Transit Convention and you’re not using the services of an ACC to start or end your Transit movements into the country under the Common Transit Convention and you’ve been instructed to report to a site for those goods to be checked
– excluding live animals, using an ATA Carnet
– excluding live animals, covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
In October, I used the Inland Border facility at Warrington as I had heard it was not very busy and a quick and easy turn around for Carnet processing. I also chose Warrington just in case Holyhead was busy or doing a “Stress Test” when I got there. However, there’s no point in me telling you about that here as Warrington Inland Border Facility is now permanantly closed. But I can give you some basic points about handling the Carnet when you get to Holyhead.
On arrival at Holyhead Inland Border facility, follow the instructions you are given. Remember to wear your High Vis when moving around in the truck park.
I use Rock-It Cargo when I need a Carnet. There are plenty of other companies you could use, some might be cheaper. I put The Carnet in the name of Iron Man Records Ltd at the Iron Man Records address. You can list yourself and any member of the band/crew as ‘named representatives’ so any member of the travelling group can present the Carnet. Here’s an example of the letter that should be contained in your ATA Carnet, probably folded up near the back somewhere.
You need to present ID with the Carnet to show you are either the holder or a named representative. This is what the front cover of the ATA Carnet looks like below. You can see the Border Force Stamp you will get and the clear statement that the “Intended use of Goods” will be as “Professional Equipment.”
Make sure the Green front page of the Carnet is signed by the Holder. Note that section H. Certificate by Customs at Departure b)Goods Examined shows as NO. It is unlikely you will have to have the goods examined but always allow extra time just in case.
In the past I have lost 4 hours while UK Border Force have gone through every item and checked every serial number and flight case. So be professional, polite, and just stay focussed. Do not try to be clever and start any conversation that may accidentally give UK Border Force a reason to inspect the items you are carrying. Say as little as possible. Don’t make jokes or make fun of the staff behind the window, or explain what a futile nonsense the Carnet system is. Try not to get angry. Answer the questions and don’t go off topic. Be respectful.
I have had to watch others in front of me regret their words when they are told they will have to be inspected after upsetting the staff. You don’t want to spend 4 hours dealing with an inspection and no one will care who you are, or how much of a hurry you are in, or whether you or your band is any good.
When leaving your country of origin, in this case you will be leaving the UK via Holyhead, fill out a Yellow “Exportation” voucher. If you look at the top right of the form you will see it says: Exportation Voucher Number 1. You can do all of this in advance but you must sign the yellow voucher in front of the clerk you are handing it to.
If you are using your Carnet for the first time, here’s a brief overview of the four Visits (All using Exportation Voucher 1) you will need to make to Inland Border Facilities. This is what you need to understand.
Validation: All ATA Carnets must be Validated by HMRC / BF before the first use (this will be done at the same time the Exportation Counterfoils and Vouchers are being endorsed.)
1. Exportation: this refers to UK goods leaving / exiting from the UK (Leaving UK Via Holyhead)
?2. Importation: this is entry into a country of temporary admission (working visit). (Arriving via Dublin Port, T11)
3. Re-exportation: this is the departure or exit from the country of temporary admission (Leaving via Dublin Port, Yard 3)
4. Re-importation: the return of goods to the UK (Arriving UK via Holyhead)
Transit: transits are rarely used, but may be required if your goods are moving through one Carnet country en-route to another (i.e. driving through EU on the way to a working visit to Switzerland counts as Transit. Note that Changing flights does not count as transit). Russia and Switzerland may request transits in case the goods are inspected away from the national border.
Vouchers: Are completed by the holder and detached/removed form the Carnet by Customs officials. Vouchers serve as a Customs declaration and must be signed by the Holder
Counterfoils: Are completed by Customs and serve as receipt audit trail for each declaration lodged.
This is what you will need to complete on arrival at the Inland Border facility, see highlighted areas below:
D. Means of Transport: Your Number plate / Vehicle Registration
E. Packaging Details: Flight Cases etc
F. Temporary Export Declaration, section a) 1 – 82
Date: 2022/11/23 (Note the date is backwards, year/month/day)
Name: Print your name, be sure you are listed as a named representative on the Carnet first.
Signature: Your usual Signature.
If you have a list of 82 items and you are taking all of them, you write 1-82 in the box marked F. Temporary Export Declaration, section a)
If, like with Sinead O’Brien, you have had to leave some items behind, write in the items 1-82 but excluding the missing items, like this: 1-40, 42-51, 53, 56-64, 66, 68, 75, 77-82
Here’s another example Carnet from 2018, you can see the boxes to complete. The sheet is marked EXPORTATION.
You should also have copies of your general list in case of inspection. This would be your items 1-82 or whatever you are carrying with you in the Vehicle.
You may be asked for a GMR (Goods Movement Reference). As I understand it, you don’t need one because you are NOT freight. Your are travelling in a “passenger carrying vehicle,” you are private individuals, musicians on tour, you have “Professional Equipment.” You have an ATA Carnet but NO GMR. The staff may persist but tell them straight, you are NOT frieight therefore you do NOT have a GMR. Hopefully that will be enough but you will have to be firm, remember: don’t get angry.
Once the staff at the Customs office window have your Carnet they will ask you for a mobile phone number. They keep all your paperwork and give you a slip/receipt and you go and wait for a text. Be sure to wait where there is plenty of phone signal or somewhere within visual distance of the Customs office Window. This will be the first Carnet stamp of four.
The first time I had to visit an Inland Border facility I got a text after nearly 3 hours saying everything was fine and to collect the paperwork. Typically the wait might be 20 minutes, but be prepared for a longer wait on occasion. If I had been picked for inspection that would have added extra time to inspect the goods against the general list.
Once you have the Carnet back, return to your vehicle and head to the Exit. You don’t have to pay for the parking. Watch the site speed limit.
EU Inbound (import)
On arrival at Dublin Port, you may be asked if you have anything to declare. Tell the Border Force that you are heading to T11 with a Carnet for “Professional Equipment.” Follow signs to Customs at T11 which is just past the Circle K garage, see photo below. The Circle K Garage has reasonable toilets and food and drink on offer in case anyone needs anything on the way.
T11 – Terminal 11 Border Crossing Station EU Inbound (import) what3words ///this.gained.proven
When you get to T11, follow the instructions given on where to park. Wear your High Vis and walk to the customs office. Say you have a Carnet that needs stamping as you are importing from UK to EU. Look for Voucher 1 in the Carnet. The sheet will be white and marked IMPORTATION. This will be second Carnet stamp of four.
In this example you will notice it says Voucher 3. Thats because the band’s Voucher 1 was used for a trip to Europe earlier in the year. Voucher 2 was used to go to Europe again in September. Voucher 3 pictured above was used for the trip UK/EU to Ireland.
Take ID & your Carnet with completed white importation voucher and copy of general list, sign it in front of them and hand it over. I stood at the window while the staff completed the paperwork. On completion the Staff said “let’s do a quick inspection.” We walked to the Vehicle and indeed, the inspection was quick. He asked me about the Vehicle, was it mine or a hire vehicle? He asked where had we come from and where were we going? He asked me what he would expect to find in the back of the van. I just said “Flight Cases as listed on the Carnet.” I opened the back doors of the van and he looked inside. “That all looks fine to me.” He said. “Anyone in the Vehicle?” I told him the names of the travelling group and he just peered through the window. “Ok That’s fine.” We walked back to the office, he stamped the Carnet and wished us safe travels.
I walked back to the van as quickly as possible without making it look like I was walking as quickly as possible. I climbed in and drove out of the Customs area as quickly as possible too, taking care to observe the site speed limit and making it look like I wasn’t in a hurry to leave. The job was done and we made our way to the first Irish show in Cork.
One thing you need to know about Ireland, you only need to get the Carnet stamped at your port of entry and port of exit. There is no need to deal with customs if you travel north or south. The Tour took us from Dublin Port to Cork, back to Dublin, to Belfast, to Limerick and then back to Dublin Port again. In our situation we only needed to get the Carnet stamped at Dublin Port on arrival and Dublin Port again on our departure.
If you haven’t been to Dublin before, be aware of the Toll Roads. Some roads have Toll Booths where you can pay cash or card, others are online like M50. If you are travelling in a hire Vehicle be sure to register the vehicle for auto pay just in case you forget to pay the online tolls. Try https://www.eflow.ie/
EU Outbound (re-export)
You need to go somewhere different at Dublin Port on the way back to the UK to get the carnet stamped. Follow the signs again to Dublin Port T11 but you want to go, this time, to Yard 3 – Customs Export which is almost opposite on the other side of the road to the T11 entrance. What3Words address: ///token.abode.sticks
Complete your white re-exportation voucher (Still Voucher 1) and sign it in front of them as mentioned before. This time the process took 5 minutes. Keep quiet and let them process it as you stand at the window. They are no more interested in your Carnet than you are. Let them do the work while you wait. Say nothing. Only answer direct questions if you have to.
The staff told me they are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. It must be a Dublin Port thing as the staff asked to do an inspection, again. It was much the same as the last one, they walked to the vehicle, asked me to open the back doors. They looked in and then said “fine” as soon as they saw all the flight cases stacked up. We returned to the office once they had asked who else was travelling in the vehicle. They peered through the window to check as before. Once the Carnet was stamped it was returned to me and they instructed me to proceed to the exit. Two staff in high vis were stood at the exit and they waved goodbye as we passed. In all the whole thing took less than 15 minutes. No issues, the staff were professional and courteous. This will be the third Carnet stamp of four.
UK Inbound (re-import)
Return to Holyhead Inland Border Facility as you did before. Same procedure. Park up in the van parking, hand your carnet in at the office window. You will need to get your yellow re-importation marked voucher 1 stamped. This will be the fourth Carnet stamp of four. See also below how the counterfoil gets stamped by UK Customs on the way out then stamped on the way back? Both say counterfoil 1. You don’t need to fill this in but the picture shows you what the UK staff will complete while they have your carnet.
If that’s the end of your trip you have to return the Carnet to Rock-it Cargo or whoever supplied the Carnet.
It seems to me that no one is inspecting vehicles UK outbound or UK inbound unless they have good reason to do so. The EU Staff at Dublin Port may check your vehicle but only briefly unless you give them reason to do otherwise. Always tell the others in the travelling group to keep quiet when you are being questioned by Customs or Border Force Staff. Answer the questions in full as simply and clearly as possible.
A very quick explainer on getting your merch out of the UK to the EU Schengen area (and beyond) and what you need to do when bringing it in, from simple declaration by conduct (walking through the green channel without saying anything) making a simple online declaration or making a full customs declaration. Please note all the advice here is based on HMRC (UK) current advice and links to said advice is here below. Also please note that the limit of £1500 is different to the limit for ENTRY to the EU we’ve been advised for the EU Schengen area which is €1K euros as a maximum, HMRC (Her majesty’s revenue and customs) PLEASE NOTE VAT … Declarations even if under the allowances for simple declaration at customs (in the red channel if making declaration on the day or online before entry) STILL MEANS YOU HAVE TO PAY VAT IF NECESSARY ! If Under £1500 usually no import duty if goods made in EU; this is for entry to the UK ..
This is a free training session for promoters, venues, show reps etc. to learn and discuss how to best support artists with access requirements, delivered by Attitude is Everything. Just Ask sets a standard for how we can work together across the live music industry to meet the access requirements of artists and crew who identify as Deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent.
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About Attitude is Everything
Attitude is Everything, have over 20 years’ experience supporting the live music sector to include disabled fans, professionals and performers. It is a chance to ask any questions, learn new skills and develop accessible practices which you can put in place when engaging with artists.