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Transporting kit to EU for private use


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Hi forum 

I am due a trip to an EU member state and wished to take my titan mobile desk with me to get ahead on some programming I need to get ahead on for a forthcoming show 

just wondering what issues I may encounter taking it on as hand luggage and potential questions from customs & security ? 

Anyone have any experience of doing similar on the forums pls? 
many thanks D

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I flew internally with an z88 Flx. Security were all over it. Asked me to turn it on. I eventually explained it needed mains so they let me plug it in which surprised me. When it booted, showed them some the screens and they were happy. Not sure what I would have done with a desk with no screen. Got the laptop out and linked them I suppose but not simple. Donkeys years ago I had to fly LHR to Edinburgh in a hurry with an IBM terminal controller.... Now that took some explaining but I was eventually allowed on board but they made me sit right next to it with it strapped I. The next seat. 

Suggest you take paperwork, manual etc.


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I have no personal experience but there are HMG guides for the temporary export of technical equipment and I would imagine that trying to explain that an expensive piece of commercial kit is "personal hand luggage" would be difficult. Trying to explain that you wanted to programme it for "an upcoming show" might make it even harder to convince them that it is "personal".

Why not try a call to one of the shippers like Sound Moves or Rock-It. You might get lucky and catch someone in a good mood.

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6 hours ago, kerry davies said:

Trying to explain that you wanted to programme it for "an upcoming show" might make it even harder to convince them that it is "personal"

Not just that telling them that you want to work while in the country might raise some questions about tax and if you have the correct visa (not sure exactly what the status is in the EU for this) 

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There was some chat about this on the Avolites Facebook group the other day, might be worth having a look over there. 

From what I remember most posters hadn't encountered any problems. 

8 hours ago, James Remo said:

The correct procedure is to get a Carnet. However plenty of people carry personal instruments in and out of the EU, is that a midi controller or synth you have there? Would a customs agent really know the difference? Is it a risk you would be willing to take?

Someone on the Avo chat had ended up explaining to the Customs officer that their Mobile was a "DJ controller" as it seemed to be the closest description that they understood. 

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19 hours ago, Digger65 said:

to get ahead on some programming I need to get ahead on for a forthcoming show 

If it's literally just for pre-programming (i.e. you're not opping the show with the Mobile during the trip) would it be easier to buy an Editor key and just use the laptop by itself?

Not as nice as having all the physical handles but would save a lot of hassle. 

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I've had struggles with the system for panto, just going into Belfast. The rules for EU countries are a real mess. The Government system of trader support is firmly pointed at SELLING the goods that go in and out. Items that are personal and going to be used for work should come under the carnet system, and friends who go in and out with video cameras report the system works fine, as long as your point of entry is a big, busy one.

Moving cameras and allied kit is made a bit easier because organisations like the GTC offer members cheaper carnet systems. However, they are often also offered by your local chamber of commerce - worth a Google and phone call.

Essentially its a list, in great detail of every item of gear, and must include identification marks - so numbers, codes, serial numbers, that kind of thing, along with how much it cost and current value, and details of any VAT component if relevant. There is a multi-part, coloured form. At the point where you have exported the equipment from the UK, the form is signed and stamped, and then when it is re-imported, a different copy is signed and once the customs have the in and out points identified - all is well. If you left the UK and 'exported' the item, but returned and did NOT get the form stamped, then you would be liable for any VAT and duty payable as you have effectively exported it permanently. It means that in the unlikely circumstance of the equipment being stolen, then you will have exported a 6 grand lighting desk. VAT at 19 or 20% and possibly 4% duty will be payable - for having no control to return. A friend a few years back got a piece of gear scrapped while he was away - it got smashed by a flight case and he left it at a venue while on tour. In the end, he returned, collected the item and returned it to the UK, got the paperwork signed  and that was cheaper!


Customs understand carnets. It says Make, model and a serial number - they look, identify and sign. That's it. They are however, not cheap documents, and need doing properly - including anything in the box - so power supplies and any accessory that looks expensive - like a monitor you bought cheap - it still needs to be on the carnet if they can see it!

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If you are planning to do some work whilst in the EU (and from your description, you unquestionably are) then you will need a visa or work permit for the appropriate country you will be doing the work in. If you're just travelling with a laptop then boarder security is more likely to assume its for personal use and wave you though unquestioned; but if you turn up with a highly specialist piece of professional equipment of significant financial value then you're forcing them to ask questions about what the object is and why you will be working in the country without appropriate permissions. There are some countries (Spain for example) that have set up waiver programs for theatre professionals to work there but you still need to go through a notifications process and jump through some hoops.

Edited by ImagineerTom
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