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The role a carnet plays in moving your film equipment

HomeNews hubIndustry insightsThe role a carnet plays in moving your film equipment

If you thought the job of moving people around the world was hard work, wait until you need to get film equipment from A to B.

Like any human passenger, freight needs to adhere to the departure and entry requirements of the countries that your film equipment touches. Whether it’s point to point or transiting through a hub en route to your destination, production teams need to ensure all their documentation is prepared and correct to avoid delays and penalties.

It can be an expensive exercise if you don’t have the right documentation when transporting film equipment cross borders. Each country has its own rules and regulations and although you may not always be asked for your documentation, you’ll land up with a hefty fine and delays if you’re asked and don’t have it.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to transporting gear from South Africa to different countries. The first thing to consider is the destination to which the crew is travelling and whether they will be transiting. You then need to check whether these destinations are countries that take part in the ATA Carnet System.

Carnets explained

Simply put, a Carnet is a shipping document that allows you to travel with Boomerang freight, aka goods like film equipment that leaves and returns to the country in its original form, without having to pay import duty or taxes when you cross a border. South Africa is a participating country, among 87 other countries, including the US, the UK, most of Europe and several African countries. Here’s a list of all the participating countries: sacci.org.za.

Think of the Carnet like a passport for all your film equipment, especially when you are travelling with a lot of high-value equipment where the cost of import duty could be sky-high. You must keep your Carnet with you when travelling with the equipment, just like you keep your passport.

Holding a Carnet does not preclude you from having to comply with the customs regulations of a country.  The equipment must be returned with the original exporter, the characteristics of the equipment must remain the same and they must be identifiable by their serial numbers.

The Carnet holder or representative must always ensure the country into which the goods are going to imported accepts Carnets and must be present when entering and leaving a country. You must also present the Carnet when leaving the country because if you don’t the customs authority in that country may demand you pay duties and VAT or ask for proof of the current location of the goods. You have to get the sheet signed and stamped correctly before check-in. 

You also need to check your Carnet carefully when you get it. Make sure it has the right number of vouchers for your trip and the equipment list, serial numbers and values are all correct.

Our useful tip: Make a few copies of the front page of the Carnet showing the document number and equipment list. Give each member of your crew a copy and upload it to a Cloud. This way you have access to copies if one gets lost.

Arrive at your departure airport well before your flight as you will need to complete the Carnet and get it stamped before check-in. If the customs official wants to check the equipment against the list on the Carnet, you wouldn’t be able to produce it, which would be a problem.

If you’re still puzzled about the ATA Carnet System, contact your Stage and Screen Travel Expert.