If you’re an importer, you need to pay close attention to international sanctions – as they can impact in ways you don’t expect.

These regulations are designed to protect global laws, maintain national security and defend threats to peace. They can impact individuals, affecting their ability to cross international borders and access finances. But, most relevant to our customers, is the impact this can have on trade between nations.

For example, when the UK was still a member of the EU, the trading bloc placed sanctions on Iran due to persistent human rights violations. This put an embargo on any trade involving equipment that could be used to monitor or intercept internet and telephone communications.

These sanctions were imposed in 2012 but are still in place today. As are sanctions imposed against Venezuela in 2017, which aimed to prevent the trading of equipment that could be used for internal repression. This sanction is currently being reviewed on a six monthly basis. At the time of writing, the EU and the UK have sanctions in place on more than 30 different countries around the world.

The example of Russia

While most importers do not trade with countries that are the target of sanctions, they need to be aware of these regulations as they can also impact trade with third party countries. For example, in September 2023, global freight was affected by a ban on Russian iron and steel that had undergone processing in a third party country.

This regulatory change was brought in to prevent Russia circumventing international sanctions. Essentially, it aimed to stop the country’s iron and steel from reaching the global market after undergoing minimal changes in another country.

Due to the malleable nature of iron and steel, those specific regulations apply to all sorts of items. This includes construction materials, but also everyday goods such as pots and pans, knives and forks and much more. Goods with just a small amount of steel within the product, such as a BBQ set, were also affected.

As a result of the regulatory change, businesses importing steel from countries, such as China, may now need to produce a mill test certificate from the factory of origin – stating that any iron or steel in the product does not originate from Russia.

The implications for importers

The challenge for importers is that sanctions are not always well advertised. In the case of the Russian iron and steel, these regulations were brought in quickly and many importers will have had cargo out at sea when they first became aware of the change to regulations.

This was not good news, as the implications for failing to adhere to sanctions can be extreme. For instance, if customs officers asked those importers to provide a mill test certificate and they could not, it would likely lead to an inspection, which may involve laboratory tests.

During this period, the importer would be liable for any quay storage costs – and there was no guarantee they would ever receive the goods if customs decided not to release them. A further frightening consideration for those importers was that a failure to comply with the sanction could have resulted in both their business and their entire supply chain facing inspection.


No one wants to have their company or partners’ businesses inspected. It wouldn’t just be inconvenient, it would likely leave supply chain partners nervous about working with you in the future. So, compliance is a must.

The responsibility for making sure you don’t inadvertently breach sanctions will always lie with you, the importer. But, as a value-added freight forwarding partner, we do everything we can to keep you informed of any changes to regulations.

We can advise you on what you’ll need to know if you are looking to conduct trade, anywhere in the world. We can also help you manage the necessary documentation in order to minimise any import delays and associated costs. For further information on trade with any country, talk to us today by contacting our team here.