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23.2.        Physical movement and change of ownership. The compilation of trade statistics is based on the physical movement of goods across borders which is captured by customs records. Large parts of trade in ships and aircraft do not physically pass through customs, and customs often does not receive any declarations. Further, it is not necessarily obvious when a physical movement of a ship or aircraft is part of a trade transaction. Therefore, IMTS 2010 recommends in exceptional cases, such as that of trade in ships and aircraft, when the general guideline is not applicable or not sufficient, to use the criterion of change of ownership to determine whether certain goods should be recorded.[13] Change of ownership is defined in accordance with the 2008 SNA[24] and BPM6[5]3 as change of economic ownership. When the criteria of change of ownership is used for the recording of goods in IMTS, an export of a good should be recorded when the economic ownership changes from a resident unit to a non-resident unit and an import recorded when the change is from a non-resident to a resident unit. However, the application of these criteria requires a data source that will provide reliable information on the change of ownership of ships and aircraft. While national (or international) ship and aircraft registers are in general viewed as possible sources of such information, they might not, as is explained further in the next section, be available or provide the required information.


23.3.        Processing versus repair and services transactions (without change of ownership). Ships and aircraft can enter a country for outfitting or partial refitting, sent by a foreign owner who retains ownership. There is the practical issue of obtaining information on such transactions on both the side of the sending (exporting) country and the side of the service-providing or processing country. However, apart from the practical issue of how to capture these transactions, there is also a need to decide whether a given transactions is a repair or other service, or a processing transaction (see chapt. XX for details). If it has been determined that a ship or aircraft is sent for processing and assuming that the general guideline can be applied, an import would have to be recorded when the good enters the country and an export when the good leaves the country after processing. The recording of a goods transaction requires valuation at gross value, meaning valuation at the full transaction value of the ship or aircraft. Given the high value of some aircraft and ships, the merchandise trade statistics of countries can be strongly affected by only a few of such transactions. Therefore compilers are advised to inform users in the metadata about such transactions and their treatment.[36] Further, countries might consider cooperating with their trading partners regarding the recording of these transactions in order to achieve uniformity in recording and to improve international comparability. This is of particular importance as the sending (exporting) country might not have any information at all about such transactions, while the service-providing or processing country should be well aware of large outfitting and refitting activities taking place in its economic territory. 




Recording of trade in an aircraft: example of Canada

A company in country A buys an aircraft built inCanada, which is treated as a domestic export ofCanada. After several years of use, the original aircraft is traded in for a newer model. The original aircraft is returned toCanadafor refurbishment and subsequent sale to country B. The return of the aircraft is treated as a Canadian reimport and the subsequent sale treated as a domestic export.


[3] See IMTS 2010, para. 1.4. Categories of goods where the criterion of change of ownership can be applicable for the recording of international merchandise trade transactions are ships and aircraft (para. 1.29), satellites and their launchers (para. 1.33), power lines, pipelines and undersea communications cables (para 1.36) and mobile equipment that changes ownership while outside the country of residence of its original owner (para. 1.39).

[4] System of National Accounts 2008 (2008 SNA), European Commission, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations, World Bank; available in PDF format at the website of the United Nations Statistics Division at

[25] International Monetary Fund, Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, Sixth Edition (BPM6) (Washington, D.C., 2009). Available from ft/bop/2007/bopman6.htm.

[36] Compilers of IMTS might wish to exclude the retrofitting or outfitting transactions on the basis that they entail only a temporary movement of a good and that including them would distort the trade statistics. There can be borderline cases and it is for the national compiler to decide whether the transaction constitutes processing, or a service or repair. However, to exclude processing activities involving ships and aircraft in general cannot be recommended. It should be considered that other processing operations also entail the recording of high values for imports and exports while the actual value added may be relatively minor. The individual value of such transactions might be very small compared with the value of a ship or aircraft but the value of the sum of such transactions can easily equal or exceed the value of the  the trade in ships and aircraft.