Customs Information for the Tsunami Affected Countries - March, 2005

Important changes to tax exemption laws.

We have recently updated our tsunami REACT page with some regulation changes that have been brought to our attention. This may affect those of you working in Sri Lanka and so we include that information below.


The UNJLC website states that “the Government of Sri Lanka has issued a series of measures to accelerate the customs clearance of tsunami relief commodities.” The new measures stipulate which goods can be allowed duty concessions and under what conditions.

  • According to the new measures, rice will not be allowed duty free access to protect domestic rice producers. Tents, building materials, communication equipment, medicine and other important relief items will be allowed conditional duty free access."( )
  • UNJLC also states that “Concessions of duties and taxes on relief supplies received by UN agencies will be granted. The duty concessions will be valid only for goods cleared by 26 April 2005.”
  • However “NGOs consignments can only be granted concessions of duties and taxes on the condition they are handed over to over to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, the Director/Secretary of Social Services or to the relevant government authority.”
  • A detailed document from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Finance and Planning on customs duty and taxes for relief items, and a UNJLC guide to import procedures for UN Agencies, International Agencies and INGO’s having an agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka, can be found here:
    This guide lists the required documents and contains further details on prohibited goods (e.g. “Duties will be charged for used garments and textiles.” & “Office equipment should not be labeled with”tsunami relief goods" ). Please see the UNJLC website ( ) for further details.


If you are still sending to Tsunami impacted areas, you may find the following helpful. If you have any additional info to share or stories to tell regarding customs, we would be grateful to hear from you. Please email us at

Maldives Customs Service
For information regarding procedures for donating goods to Maldives

Thai Customs Department
State customs administration of Thailand

Central Board of Customs and Excise – India
State customs administration of India

Contact Information of Asean Customs Administrations
An index of customs administration offices of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member nations and contact details.

Sri Lanka National Disaster Management Centreh
Current requests and offers for relief items and humanitarian assistance and volunteer needs in Sri Lanka.

UNOCHA Customs Directory
Part of the UNOCHA Central Register, for those seeking information on shipping goods during disasters, provides contact details for the state customs departments. Where available, this online directory also lists customs regulations that are relevant to humanitarian cargo.

Reliefweb – South Asia: Earthquake & Tsunami
ReliefWeb is an information portal for humanitarian emergencies, providing situation reports, press releases, maps and other documents from the UN system, governments and NGOs.

United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC) Indian-Ocean
The UNJLC exists to co-ordinate and optimise the logistics capabilities of humanitarian agencies in large-scale emergencies. The Indian-Ocean UNJLC website includes customs procedures, infrastructure and supply chain updates, and other information relating to tsunami-affected countries.

Disaster Resource Network (DRN)-
The Disaster Resource Network (DRN) seeks to streamline the delivery of industry resources to the disaster site. Following a request from the United Nations, the Disaster Resource Network managed the initial flow of aid arriving in Colombo airport, Sri Lanka, and has also assisted with aid arriving in Indonesia.

Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) Information Centre
The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies has opened an Information Centre for Sri Lanka. The website includes a list of agencies operating in Sri Lanka, an organisation activity map, detailed daily reports, and weather information.