What does cabotage mean?

What is the definition of cabotage? In logistics terms, we are talking about a transport service where the haulier performs a paid service for a carriage in a country where he is not registered. One note - this only applies to EU and EFTA member states. Cabotage service is strictly regulated in the European Union, and this regulation can be found in the Mobility Package. The wording of the regulations is clear and it clearly indicates that an entrepreneur is entitled to a maximum of three cabotage operations within seven calendar days. The third order must be followed by an obligatory break of four days - this is the so-called 'cooling period'. The regulation drawn up by the European institutions clearly indicates that cabotage is a temporary service designed to reduce the number of empty runs, particularly on very long journeys. It also allows for more efficient use of the driver's working time in international transport operations. Cabotage is named after the Italian sailor Giovanni Cabot.

Cabotage services - what does it look like?

What does cabotage services consist of? It is a very simple mechanism - if a driver from Warsaw has driven to Dortmund, he can still return with the goods to Berlin on the return journey. This is a strictly regulated mechanism which also imposes restrictions as part of maintaining competition on the market. Any such transport must be carried out in accordance with EU regulations as part of the common rules on access to the international road haulage market. All the information can be found in Regulation [EC] No. 1072/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council - this regulation dates back to 2009. Importantly, a cabotage operation may also start even after a partial unloading of the goods delivered from a foreign country. 

What types of cabotage service can we encounter? According to European regulations, there are two options. The first is cabotage in the country of unloading, with the possibility of undertaking up to three deliveries within seven calendar days. There is also cabotage in a country other than the country of unloading. In the case of this second option, the company may carry out one transport and this must take place within 3 days of crossing the border of the country in which it wishes to undertake the order. Importantly, entry into that country must be empty. The entire delivery must be completed within 7 calendar days. Some of the regulations may differ slightly - this is due to the operation of national legislatures, which may be different for each country. The rule is that national regulations must be equal for carriers from the same country and from abroad. 

Cabotage in the EU - what documents are needed?

Who can carry out cabotage in the EU? Any haulage company that is registered in the European Union or EFTA member states. What is important here is that the haulier must possess a valid licence for international transport and a valid driver's certificate. In Poland, there is a small exception and a licence is not required for cabotage operations carried out in vehicles with a maximum weight of 3.5 tonnes. Taxation of the load takes place each time at the destination, i.e. in the country where unloading is carried out. In all cases, during a cabotage service, the VAT is payable by the recipient and it is him who is obliged to pay the taxes - the haulier is obliged to register for VAT-EU purposes.

Cabotage in the EU - what documents will I need? The European Parliament regulation also indicates the documents that will be required when carrying out a cabotage service. These are:

  • an international CMR consignment note,
  • consignment note for each cabotage service,
  • an invoice without VAT for each cabotage service order,
  • You should also remember to fill in such data as:
  • name, address of the customer and transport company with signature of each party,
  • name and address of the consignee of the load,
  • date and signature of the consignee of the load,
  • date and place of receipt of the cabotage delivery, as well as its destination,
  • quantity and gross weight of goods delivered,
  • the registration number of the lorry and semi-trailer,
  • the nature of the load and how it is packaged,
  • in the case of dangerous goods, the name, codes, numbers and other markings on the packages are necessary.