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International Forwarding Association Blog » International freight forwarding » Regulations and Rules for Shipping to the Middle East

Regulations and Rules for Shipping to the Middle East

Whether shipping for a small retailer, mid-sized business, or a multinational corporation, there are some specifics to learn about when exporting goods to Middle East markets. To help you get started, here are some regulations and paperwork required when shipping goods to your target markets.


Import Regulations

Most countries in the region require that shippers present a Certificate of Origin, along with packing lists, commercial invoices, bills of lading or waybills, and insurance coverage.

When shipping to the United Arab Emirates and Oman, freight forwarders need to present a Certificate of Origin for items valued over $100. For Qatar, you will need a certificate for shipments over 98 kg and those in multiple packages. Forwarders shipping to Saudi Arabia are required to present a Certificate of Conformity which is issued for a specific product and valid over a period of 1 year.


Duties and Other Taxes

When shipping goods to the Middle East, cargo is subject to duty, including shipments to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain. In some cases, goods are also subject to excise tax and VAT. For goods entering Saudi Arabia, for example, shippers pay 5 percent VAT. Soft drinks are subject to a 50 percent excise tax while for energy drinks and tobacco products, importers pay 100 percent. In Qatar, all shipments are subject to 5-percent duty, the only exception being tobacco products (100 percent).


Other Regulations and Prohibited Items

If you are shipping to Bahrain, you will need to present a No Objections Certificate for certain items. Examples include magazines and books, broadcasting equipment, and food products. For goods shipped to Oman, all labels should be in Arabic/English or Arabic, with some exceptions like exceptional marketing purposes.

Saudi Arabia has imposed prohibitions and restrictions on a wide range of items, including used clothing and tires, distillery equipment, pork products and pork, and alcohol. Special approval is required for small shipments and cargo like:

  • Items containing alcohol
  • Horses
  • Radio-controlled aircraft
  • Wireless equipment
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Harmful materials and chemicals
  • Religious tapes and books
  • Tapes, movies, and periodicals
  • Live animals
  • Agricultural seeds
  • Archeological artifacts
  • Natural asphalt

The Omani government has also implemented prohibitions and restrictions on a variety of items, including fireworks, postage stamps, ivory, fireworks, shark fins, and notes and bank bills.

In Qatar, the list of prohibited items includes biological substances, items of unusual or high value, animal products, and alcoholic beverages.

The Kuwaiti government prohibits the import of gambling machines, alcoholic beverages, pork, non-domesticated animal skins, and items of exceptional value such as silver, gold, precious stones, antiques, and works of art.

Customs regulations in Bahrain prohibit the import of items like reconditioned and used tires, promotional materials for cigarettes, cultured pearls, rhinoceros horn, raw ivory, and live swine. In addition, the government prohibits magazines, books, pictures, photographs, mannequins, sculptures, and printed publications from being imported into the country if they contradict Islamic morality, decency, and teachings.