Harmonized System nomenclature for the classification of goods (HS codes)

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Shippers have placed reference letters such as “UN” on the documentation, which gives the impression that the goods are classified as dangerous goods according to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code when it is not is not the case. The intent of the letter prefix here was to refer to HS codes in United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) lists. Another reference letter used is the placement of the acronym letter of the specific nomenclature system of the importing country, i.e. NCM, which is the common Mercosur nomenclature established by the Brazilian government.

In addition, when the bill of lading includes the HS coding, the contracting carrier must be aware that it is his responsibility to verify the accuracy of the code stipulated. This verification can be done through the designated protection agency or by checking the importing country’s specific HS code list.

The content below provides contextual and informative reference points on the coding system to provide an understanding of the coding system.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System is generally referred to as the “Harmonized System” or simply “HS”. This is an international classification list of multipurpose products developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The WCO defines it as comprising more than 5,000 product groups based on a hierarchy of sections, chapters, titles and subtitles, forming the six-digit identifying HS code. More than 200 countries and economies use the system. It classifies international shipments and assesses taxes, duties and restrictions that may apply to the product being shipped. Countries that apply the HS coding system are listed here.

Developed in the early 1970s and revised every five years, it is now in its 7th edition, which came into force on January 1, 2022. Over 98% of all goods shipped in international trade are classified in terms of SH, which simplifies things. for a shipper to identify the HS code for a given product.

Members can find HS codes either on a country’s government website or on the WCO website. Also, each country can add additional numbers to the basic six-digit HS code, increasing the length of the code from eight to ten digits.
Source: West of England

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