Certain countries require a submission of an advanced manifest for customs clearance and cargo assessment purposes. This requirement is also applicable for sea freight shipments to all ports in Japan.

The Advance Filing Rules (AFR) for Japan is an electronic submission from carriers (VOCCs and NVOCCs) to Japan Customs, that contains all relevant cargo and shipment information. The AFR must be filed electronically at least 24 hours before vessel departure from the port of loading.

In this article, we’ll be going through the details, deadlines, process and penalties of the Advance Filing Rules for Japan. Please take note that this guide is designed to help understand the details and requirements of the AFR – always refer to the official Japan Customs AFR documentation to check requirements or changes. 

Why Is it Important to Submit an AFR?

The aim for automation and continuous improvement of cargo transportation saw the development of a system called the Nippon Automated Cargo and Port Consolidation (NACCS). 

The NACCS system offers efficient information exchange between the customs department in Japan, other administrative authorities and transportation companies that wish to transport cargo via sea into Japan. 

The AFR forms part of the initiative in ensuring that all mandatory data is submitted to Japan Customs for assessment. This helps to facilitate a smooth and efficient import process.

The AFR has been fully implemented since March 2014 and is applicable for all sea freight shipments. Submission is mandatory and a failure to submit or submitting incorrect information may result in penalties

What Information Does the AFR Need to Contain?

The AFR needs to be submitted with information pertaining to the cargo, container and shipment. Below, you’ll find the data elements listed along with an explanation. Here’s also the official link to the AFR requirements

  • Consignor Details – The details of the consignor, also known as the exporter or shipper. Submission must include an accurate address, country code, and telephone number.
  • Consignee Details – The name of the consignee, also known as the importer. The details that are required are the address, telephone number, and country code.
  • Notify Party Details – The name of the notify party with complete address, telephone number, and country code. 
  • Description of Goods – The description of the goods as declared in the Bill of Lading. The details must match with the details on the BL/SWB.
  • Number of Packages – The total number of packages in the shipment. 
  • Harmonized System Code – The 6 digit harmonized system code (HS codes) that can be found here.
  • Total Gross Weight – The total gross weight of the shipment. 
  • Volume – The total volume (in cubic meter) of the shipment as indicated in the Bill of Lading. 
  • Marks and Numbers – The unique identifiers of the shipment. This is mostly applied for Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipments. 
  • Carrier Code – The unique code of the shipping line according to Japan Customs. 
  • Vessel Code – The vessel code identifying the vessel of the carrier. 
  • Voyage Code – The voyage number of the vessel carrying the cargo. 
  • Port of Loading – The port of loading is the port where the cargo is loaded onto the vessel. This is also known as the origin port. 
  • Date and Time of Departure – The date and time the vessel departed from the port of loading.
  • Port of Discharge – The port of discharge is the port where the cargo is unloaded from the vessel. This is also known as the destination port. 
  • BL Number – The unique Bill of Lading number of the shipment that is issued by the carrier. 
  • Container Details – The type and size of the container as declared in the Bill of Lading. 
  • Seal Number – The seal number of each container must also be declared in the AFR submission.
  • IMDG Class Number – The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Class of the shipment. This must only be indicated if applicable, depending on the type of cargo. 
  • United Nations Dangerous Goods (UNDG) Identifier – If the nature of cargo is dangerous goods, then the unique 4 digit UNDG identifier must be indicated. 

Advanced Filing Rules Submission and Process

An AFR submission must be done electronically via the NACCS portal. There are only a few authorized service providers with a direct connection to NACCS that can submit the AFR. You may find the list of authorized providers here.

AFR screenshot
Screenshot of AFR Portal from the Japan Customs Website

Shippers typically work with shipping line or non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) also known as freight forwarders. These carriers usually have an authorized service provider in Japan that they work with. 

Therefore, carriers submit the AFR details to the provider no less than 24 hours before vessel departure from the port of origin. The authorized provider then submits the AFR electronically through the NACCS system, where Japan Customs assesses the cargo information. 

Advanced Filing Rules Deadlines 

For short-distance shipping routes from South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Russia, the AFR needs to be submitted just before vessel departure from the port of loading, depending on the destination port in Japan (some also 24 hours before departure).

For all other origins, the AFR needs to be submitted at least 24 hours before departure of the vessel at the origin port. The best practice is to submit AFR before the CY cut-off, as this is typically 24 to 48 hours before vessel departure.  

When shipping to Japan, it’s always best to coordinate and reconfirm the Advanced Filing Rules deadlines with your shipping line or the freight forwarder. 

Advanced Filing Rules Penalties 

As AFR for shipments bound to Japan via sea freight is mandatory, failure to comply with the guidelines may result in the cargo not being loaded onto the intended vessel or a delay or rejection of import clearance. In worst case scenarios, the company or perpetrator may also have to pay a monetary fine of 500,000 Yen or serve one year in prison.

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.