Free port

Regulations, general provisions, definition, permitted activities, operations, exemptions and benefits, port services.

General provisions

Free Ports are those custom´s port facilities where payment of taxes, rates or duties on imports are exempted. It is possible to carry out activities that add value, without modifying the nature of the goods, and re-export without taxation.

Free Port definition

Free Ports are the customs port areas in which the special fiscal and customs regimes established in the Act on Ports are in force and in which, provided that they have the physical and organizational conditions necessary according to the National Customs Directorate, the movement of goods is free, without the need for permits or formalities.

Likewise, the destinations of goods entering the port may be changed freely.

Montevideo is the first terminal on the Atlantic coast of South America to operate under a "Free Port" regime. This regime is also applied to the Uruguayan ports of Nueva Palmira, Fray Bentos and Colonia.

Permitted Activities

The activities allowed in the port customs areas are the following:

  1. Activities related to the goods: activities that, without modifying their nature, can add value to them, modify their presentation or implement their free disposal or destination, within the framework of the handling allowed by the Law of Ports, its regulations and other applicable laws and rules.

  2. Activities related or associated with the services provided to the goods: in addition to the conventional ones of loading, unloading, stowage, and mobilization of packages, the following are possible: transport, transshipment, reshipment, transit, removal, deposit, storage, disposal, ship supply, naval repairs and other services related to port activities and the free port.

  3. Only the activities, buildings and facilities that are in accordance with the port’s use and planning, and under the laws, rulings and related regulations may be carried out. The following are strictly forbidden: buildings or facilities intended for housing, overhead laying of high voltage power lines, underground or overhead laying of any cables or pipes whatsoever, any type of publicity not sanctioned by the Port Management, retail trade, restaurants (except maritime stations or cafeterias for staff), consumption or use of non-declared goods. Captains in command, ship crews, passengers, or any other person who is not explicitly authorized by the port management to do so, are forbidden to engage in any transaction with ships or natural or legal persons in the customs area.

Procedures

Companies, and, especially, port operators, including Port Management employees in charge of product support, at customs port facilities, must keep complete, correct, and up-to-date records of the handled, stored, received, and delivered goods by freight and separated by each storage location..

Every natural or legal person who performs any activity in the custom´s port facilities are performing such activities in Uruguay. Therefore, such persons are bound to the laws and general norms, which in taxes and employment proceedings, are under the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare respectively.

If required, port services are provided in Uruguay’s commercial ports every day of the year, twenty-four hours a day.

Tax Exemptions and Benefits

All merchandise and goods which enter the port’s customs exclaves from outside of the country are exempted from customs duties, rates, and tariffs on the import.

Merchandises and goods entering the country through custom’s port facilities shall be considered imports and, as such, shall be subject to the pertinent customs duties, rates and tariffs.​

Merchandise and goods entering the custom's port facilities through the national customs area that are not used for consumption, building, maintenance of buildings or facilities, equipment, or for port tasks or services shall be considered to be exports and treated as such.

Port Services

Ship services (direct and indirect) Pilotage, towing, assistance (launching, mooring, unmooring, and other services that affect boat movements), rescue and firefighting, provisioning, supplies (water, energy, telephone, etc), garbage collection, dredging, signaling, ship repairs, and any other direct, indirect or related service that may be performed to ship or boats and their crews.​

Passenger services: Boarding and disembarking, transport within the port’s facilities from the maritime station or terminal.​

The private companies who wish to provide port services based on the aforementioned activities shall comply with the conditions and requirements provided in the regulations.​.

The authorization to provide port services shall be granted for five years, and may be renewed as long as the company meets the requirements, updates its documentation annually in due course, provides the information requested by the Management and does not incur in sanctions that may disqualify the company for continuing to provide such services.

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