Importing machinery

Machines that do not meet the required safety requirements may not be placed on the European market. If you import machinery from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you are liable for damage and injuries caused by a defect in the machine. You are also liable if you purchase machinery in an EEA country and put them on the market under your own brand.

In 2021, the Netherlands imported nearly €130 billion worth of machinery and equipment. This is almost 25% of total goods imports that year (source: Statistics Netherlands, in Dutch).

CE marking

Products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) must meet certain European product requirements. For example, with regard to safety, health, and the environment. The EEA consists of the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Many technical products and various consumer products sold in the EEA are required to have a CE marking. This indicates that a product meets certain minimum safety, health, and environmental requirements. These requirements can be found in European directives and regulations.

Most machines are subject to the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) (in Dutch). But other directives, such as the EMC Directive, the Pressure Equipment Directive, or the Low Voltage Directive may also apply. If a machine meets the essential health and safety requirements set out in the applicable directives, the manufacturer may apply the CE logo on the product.

Manufacturer, importer, and distributor

Manufacturers are usually allowed to determine if their machinery meet the requirements for CE marking by performing a so-called conformity assessment. If the product meets the requirements, the manufacturer produces a signed EC declaration of conformity and a technical construction file. They also apply the CE logo to the machine.

Annex 4 of the Machinery Directive lists 23 categories of machinery for which the manufacturer may have to use a notified body if they have not fully complied with relevant European standards (EN standards) when producing the machine. Standards describe how a product, in a technical sense, can meet essential requirements. A notified body is a designated inspection body that verifies machine compliance.

If you import a machine from a country outside the EEA, you have certain responsibilities. You must be intimately familiar with the applicable directives, for instance. And verify that the manufacturer completed the conformity assessment process correctly. That they applied the CE marking properly. And that the user manual is present in the right language. The importer should also check that the technical file is present and complete, and keep the manufacturer's EC Declaration of Conformity. For more information, visit the page for importers on the website of the European Commission.

When you import a machine from an EEA country, you must be very familiar with the applicable directives, check that the CE marking was applied properly, that there is an EC declaration of conformity, and that the user manual (operating instructions, safety information) is in the right language. For more information, visit the page for distributors on the website of the European Commission.

If you import machinery from the EEA or outside the EEA and put them on the market under your own name, you take over the role and obligations of the manufacturer.

Product liability

If you import a machine from a country outside the EEA or purchase a machine within the EEA but use your own label or brand name, you are liable for injuries and damage caused by a defect in the machine under a European directive on product liability. You can take out business liability insurance to protect yourself.

Paying import duties

If you import machinery from abroad, the country of origin determines whether you have to pay import duties. Is it an EU countryor a non-EU country? You do not have to pay import duties within the EU. If you import goods from a non-EU country, you have to declare the goods to customs and will usually have to pay import duties. Import duty rates are linked to the 10-digit TARIC code, or commodity code, of the machine. You pay import duty on the customs value of the product. All import duty rates can be found in the Tariff Manual of Dutch Customs. Click on ‘nomenclature’, followed by ‘browse by nomenclature'. Most machinery can be found in Section XVI. Clicking on the folders will take you to the TARIC codes and import duty rates.

For help finding your imported product's TARIC code and import duty rate, call the Customs Information Line.

Import duty relief

When you import machinery from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, tariff preference usually applies. This means that you get import duty relief if the machinery is of preferential origin from the treaty country. You can demonstrate this with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin, such as a EUR.1 certificateinvoice declaration,or Certificate of Origin. Which certificate or declaration of origin you need depends on the treaty country.

Transportation agreements

Make clear arrangements with your supplier about how they will ship the machinery. Agree on an Incoterms® rule and write it down in the contract. That way, you will both know who:

  • Will arrange transportation (to where) and pay the costs.
  • Will be responsible for transport insurance, permits, documents, and (customs) formalities.
  • Carry the risk of loss of or damage to the machinery in transit at which points of the journey.


Avoid paying your supplier in advance, if possible. As there is a risk that they will simply not deliver your order. There are many different forms of payment to choose from, such as a Letter of Credit (L/C). Always check with your bank about the form of payment (and currency) that best suits the transaction.