An Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) is a five-character code used in the Commerce Control List (CCL). The ECCN is used to classify exports and determines whether a licence is needed for exporting dual-use items. Dual-use items can be used for everyday civilian purposes. They can also be materials, components or complete systems used in the production or development of military goods and weapons of mass destruction. Some examples include night vision system, parachutes, software, uranium, anti-riot shields, smart card readers, plant pathogens, bacteria and electronics components such as transistors, general-purpose integrated circuits and high energy/superconductive components.
The CCL uses ten categories to divide all Export Control Classification Numbers. The categories include:
- Category 0 – Nuclear materials, facilities and equipment
- Category 1 – Materials, chemicals, microorganisms and toxins
- Category 2 – Materials Processing
- Category 3 – Electronics
- Category 4 – Computers
- Category 5 – Telecommunications and information security
- Category 6 – Sensors and lasers
- Category 7 – Navigation and avionics
- Category 8 – Marine
- Category 9 – Aerospace and Propulsion
They can help you to determine whether the goods you intend to export or import will be subject to trade controls. These categories are then divided again into five internationally recognised sub-groups:
- Systems, equipment and components
- Test, inspection and product equipment
The ECCN is made up the export's category number, product group and the type of control it requires. For example, a police helmet's ECCN is '0A979' because it is a piece of equipment, therefore 'Category 0 – Nuclear materials, facilities and equipment' and group 'A. Systems, equipment and components'.
The reasons for control are abbreviated as the following:
- NP – Nuclear Non-proliferation
- NS – National Security
- RS – Regional Stability
- SI – Significant Item
- SL – Surreptitious Listening
- SS – Short Supply
- UN – United Nations Arms Embargo
- AT – Anti-Terrorism
- CB – Chemical & Biological Weapons
- CC – Crime Control
- CW – Chemical Weapons Convention
- EI – Encryption Item
- FC – Firearms Convention
- MT – Missile Technology
Where are they relevant?
When exporting, there are varying levels of control depending on the country of end-use, the end-use of the item and the end-user themselves. This means that even if an export licence is not required based on the country of end-use, the exporter may still need a licence because of the end-use or end-user. Determining the ECCN of an item is essential in deciding whether to apply for a licence.
The manufacturer of the item is a valuable source for information when it comes to determining the ECCN. This is because the item may have already been exported, therefore the manufacturer will already know the ECCN, as well as which countries require a licence. Once you've classified the item, you can use the information below the ECCN entry on the CCL to decide if a licence is necessary.
For example, if you wish to export polygraph equipment, such as a lie detector test, you would first need to check the ECCN. This type of equipment falls under 'Category 3 – Electronics' in the CCL. As polygraphs are categorised as 'equipment', the sub-group 'A' is applicable. The next step is checking the list to see whether the item is included. In this example, the ECCN is '3A981', as the '3' refers to the category and the 'A' refers to the group. You can then use the description of the item to decide whether to apply for an export licence. As the 'Reason for Control' is 'Criminal Control, Column 1', you can cross-reference using the Commerce Country Chart. If there is an 'X' in the box based on the Reason for Control of your item and the country of destination, you will need a licence.
Why are they important?
It is very important that importers and exporters take export controls seriously. All counties should have some form of export control policy, legislation and enforcement systems. They are introduced and implemented in response to concerns about the development of mass destruction as well as national and collective security.
Mistakes in classification can have severe consequences for your business. For example, the improper classification might lead to an exporter failing to obtain a licence. Without an appropriate licence, the company risks being fined or even facing prison time. This also puts restrictions on future exports, which is detrimental to some companies that rely on trade. It's also important to bear in mind that classifications change over time. You should stay up to date with changes to the CCL, especially if any updates might affect your item's classification.