CHIEF Replacement – CDS – how does it affect you?

CDS – Does it affect me?

AEO Compliance Docks with sunsetCustoms have issued a trade update on CDS, the upcoming replacement for CHIEF.  You will want to know “Does this affect me?”

CDS – The Customs Declaration Service will replace the ageing CHIEF system in a phased implementation from August 2018. It will modernise the Customs data processing service, expand capacity and and offer new features. If you are involved in import or export declarations then this does affect you.

The latest HMRC bulletin gives a good overview of the reasons for the system change, the new features and what importers and exporters must to in order to prepare. Worth reading to in order to understand what’s coming later this year.  Read here:

Does it matter ? We say yes.

As an importer or exporter do I really need to know what’s going on with Customs IT systems?

Yes. If by the end of this year you (or your forwarder) is not ready to use CDS then your shipments can’t clear Customs at the UK border leading to delays, customer frustration and expense for both imports and exports.

The majority of traders rely on freight forwarders to interact with the current system; CHIEF. It will be replaced by CDS an entirely new processing system soon so preparations must be made. One of the main trade facing activities on the Customs system is creating entries. If you rely on a forwarder then you have a limited amount to be concerned about right now, aside from keeping an eye on their preparations. For now we recommend an initial contact with your forwarder to check they are aware. Simply ask about their CDS migration plans and get a feeling for their readiness.

For the time-being the most likely response is “yes- we are aware”.

At this stage of systems testing HMRC are focused on the CSP sector that provide the link between CDS and desktop software and ports systems. Most smaller forwarders will still be waiting for support and specific instructions from their software suppliers,who in turn are waiting for HMRC.

Talk to your forwarder

Drowning in customs compliance we can helpConsidering that CDS will be mandatory for all sectors by January 2019 and assuming that HMRC keep to their project timetable , it makes sense to check-in again with your forwarder in a couple of months time. Verify that they have now developed solid,detailed migration plans.Remember the entire sector has to move to this new platform in the second half of 2018. We foresee a manic end to 2018 that will stretch specialist resources on all sides.

As we approach the beginning of the migration phase in August, check back with your forwarder exactly when they expect their own software updates to be made, ask when their internal staff training will take place, ask about their scheduled date for cut over to CDS from CHIEF and for their contingency plans. Continue to monitor their progress as migration starts and keep up to date on progress across the sector with us here on the Clearlight News page.

Without a successful migration to CDS your products will not clear Customs.

If you are a CHIEF user today

For importers,exporters,brokers and forwarders who use CHIEF directly or via a 3rd party desktop applications then things will change significantly this year. You should already have plans for your business to cope with this major IT change and the impact it will have on your operations. Testing with CSPs has been ongoing for several weeks and large volume declarants (for example large CFSP traders and Fast-Parcel-Operators) are about to start testing. Your software provider will be in touch to discuss migration plans. Talk to them now.

Sign Up

HMRC have promised an extensive communication program this year on CDS migration. There is already an active program visiting trade associations and industry sector specific groups to talk about CDS. A simple step to take right now for all is to register for updates from Customs by  by emailing

Clearlight will provide regular updates as we move closer to the start up of CDS. Get in touch with specific questions via our Live Chat on our home page or email us a


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