Have Pipes, Will Travel: How to Deal with the New Blackwood Legislation

§Since our articles on the new CITES regulations covering pipes made from African blackwood there has been a growing concern among pipers about how they may be affected when travelling abroad with their instruments, writes the Editor.

In particular ‘what about the hundreds of pipers who travel here for the Worlds?’ has been a familiar cry. Before I get to that, I need to repeat that at the moment travel within the EU trade area is no different than it was before January 2 when the legislation protecting dalbergia melanoxylon came into force.  There is no need to do anything different if you are going to France, Germany or any of the other EU countries; it’s the same for pipers in these places coming here. All may change post Brexit, but that is some months, maybe years, in the future.

Outwith the EU things are mightily different. Pipers got round the ban on ivory by getting cheaper sets of imitation to travel with. Then manufacturers more or less stopped using the real stuff and now only those with older ivory sets have a concern when they arrive at an overseas border.

The cause of all the difficulty….a precious billet of African blackwood, dalbergia melanoxylon

With the popularity of blackwood among pipemakers such a manufacturing change is not going to happen and therefore we need to take steps to ensure that when we fly from the UK to, say, Switzerland or the US, we are ready for any difficulty – at least as far as we can be. All of that said, travelling with pipes outwith the EU from the UK should not, on paper, be a problem. We are covered under ‘musician’s use’ which means that any instrument under 10kgs. will not be treated as a commercial export or import and should not, as a consequence, require any documentation. This is the UK stance but, again, attitudes can vary country to country. So it would be a good idea, I think, to carry a receipt or valuation from a respected maker, or some such proof of date of manufacture showing your pipes were made ‘pre-Convention’ in other words pre-January 2nd, 2017.

However, even this may not be enough to get you and your pipes to the contest, workshop, recital, or tattoo you are scheduled to play at. We have all had experience of uniformed jobsworths who are having a bad day and mean to take it out on the unsuspecting traveller. So, for extra peace of mind, some pipers may wish to apply for a ‘Musical Instrument Certificate’ from APHA, the Bristol-based Animal and Plant Health Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which enforces CITES regulations in this country. APHA works for the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments protecting endangered wildlife through licensing and registration. In Northern Ireland the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARDNI) has this responsibility.

Dalbergia melanoxylon

The APHA Musical Instrument Certificate lasts for three years (it is renewable) and should be stamped by officials each time you pass through customs. There is no charge for the certificate. The form you need, FED0172, is on the GOV.UK website but for convenience I have attached it here: Musical Instrument Certificate Form. It is the same form our manufacturers now have to use when applying for an export licence for their blackwood shipments. It is generic and difficult to fill in, so here’s a guide based on what I have been told: 

In the importer/exporter Box 1 fill in your name and address etc.
In Box 2 tick ‘Other’ and write ‘Musical instrument Certificate’.
Leave Boxes 3,4,5 & 6 blank.
Box 8: write ‘Set of bagpipes’ and name the maker if known and describe the mounts.
Box 9: leave blank.
Box 10: write ‘1’.
Box 11: write ‘Appendix 2’.
Box 12: ‘Annex. B’.
Box 13: insert ‘U’ (for unknown).
Box 14: insert ‘P’ (for personal).
Box 15: insert ‘Not known’.
Boxes 16 – 20: leave blank.
Box 21: write ‘Dalbergia melanoxylon’.
Box 22: ‘African blackwood’.
Box 23: state that the instrument is for personal musical performance and then complete the rest of the form and send it to the address in Box 7. Turn round is usually 15 working days.


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Bear in mind that some countries may not recognise a UK issued Musical Instrument Certificate, though the US usually does – certainly that is the experience of violinists travelling with ivory-tipped bows and blackwood pegs. Pipers outwith the UK should check if their relevant Government agency issues a similar certificate. In the US this is the Fish and Wildlife Service and in Canada the Canadian Wildlife Service. Armed with such a piece of paper there should be no difficulty at all when you arrive at Glasgow Airport for the Worlds. If you can’t get a certificate, make sure you have a valuation or receipt as mentioned above.

When buying new pipes ask for the relevant CITES documentation and use this when travelling. Copies should be provided free of charge by your supplier along with your receipt. If you have made a sole purchase directly from a manufacturer in the UK you will already have the CITES import permit you needed to bring the instrument into your country in the first place. 

I hope pipers find this information useful and I’d be grateful for any feedback on experiences pipers may have on any travels post January 2.


Five weeks and counting!

2 thoughts on “Have Pipes, Will Travel: How to Deal with the New Blackwood Legislation”

  1. Thank you for this article. Does this certificate cover export (UK) and import (UK) on return from USA trip with bagpipes for personal use. I have phoned CITES office only to hear a message saying no-one answers the phones there!! This is needed for a trip to Tartan Week with school pipe band in April 2017.

    1. Ms Cassidy
      There should be no difficulty provided all the pipers have instruments solely for their personal use which I am sure is the case. You can apply to APHA for an instrument passport using the form I have posted but these will not be available until the middle of FEB when the EU finally brings itself into line with the CITES Jan 2 regulation.
      RW

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