How is a vehicle imported by sea?

Importing a vehicle by sea can be a delicate and complicated process, as many factors must be considered, especially transportation and customs clearance at the destination. When importing a car by sea it can be transported inside a container or directly in the ship’s hold. In the first case, a crane loads the container on the upper deck of the ship if it is a container ship, or on the deck if it is a normal cargo ship. In the second case, employees of the shipping company or the port terminal load the vehicle into the hold through the ship’s ro-ro (roll on-roll off) ramp and secure it to the floor with lashing lugs so that it does not shift or move during navigation.

Vehicles imported in the hold of a ship must be transported without a battery and with less than 30% fuel in the tank.

According to International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations, the vehicle must run without the battery and with less than 30% gasoline in the tank. Both the battery and the fuel are classified as dangerous goods, and as such, if the car is transported in a container, the certificate of responsibility must be completed in accordance with Special Provision 961 of the IMDG Code or International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.


Necessary Documents

If applicable, a 10% tariff and 21% VAT will be imposed on the importation of vehicles by land.

The documentation required to perform this action is:

With Import Duty Exemption

  • Purchase contract
  • Owner’s passport
  • Transport document
  • Declaration of value
  • Authorization of import of the car (we provide you with a model)
  • Deregistration of the vehicle from the country of origin
  • Technical data sheet of the vehicle
  •  Registration in the importer’s employer’s registry
  • An affidavit certifying that the car will not be sold and that you have owned it for more than one year.


No import exemption (10% tariff and 21% VAT).

  • Purchase contract
  • A copy of the DNI, NIF or passport of the holder
  • Transport document
  • Bill of sale or purchase contract with proof of the transaction
  • Shipping authorization (we provide you with a model)
  • Technical data sheet of the vehicle


The necessary customs formalities

To import a car to Spain from a third country, such as the United States or Japan by sea, it must first go through the Import Clearance. This process is carried out by the Customs and Excise Department of the Tax Agency. In addition, you will need the Documento Único Administrativo (DUA), a standardized form for filing import declarations created by the Customs Code of the Union (CAU).

To import a vehicle by sea, you must first obtain the required papers. Then you must complete the customs formalities and pay the corresponding fees.

It is recommended that the vehicle comes clean inside and out, so that customs officials can easily examine it and detect any damage. Also, if possible, before shipment, formalize an agreement with the seller describing the condition of the vehicle (if it has dents or scratches, if it has a spare wheel or electronic equipment such as navigation or audio-visual). Having this document simplifies any future liability claims in the event of a transport mishap.


Other formalities and requirements

The car must be homologated in Europe, so it must obtain the European Conformity Certificate from the manufacturer.

Also, the payment of taxes to the administration, among which are the following:

  • The municipal tax on the purchase of motor vehicles.
  • The registration tax (Form 576) to the Tax Agency.
  • In the case of a vehicle, the VAT rate of 21% will be applied.
  • If it is an import of a used vehicle, the transfer tax (ITP) may apply.

To register the vehicle at the general traffic directorate (DGT), it is necessary to comply with all the customs formalities to register the car and register it. In the DGT they will ask you for the purchase papers and the documentation of the payment of taxes. You must also take out car insurance and pass the Technical Vehicle Inspection (ITV).


Do we take care of the import of your vehicle by sea?

Connecta can assist you in importing a car by sea. Whether you are an individual or a company, we will handle the import clearance process within 24 hours, as we are experienced customs brokers. Connecta’s experts will provide you with the necessary documents and take care of all the administrative formalities. We will always inform you about the procedure and status of the maritime import of your vehicle.

Connecta will handle all customs procedures and advise you on the necessary import formalities.


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