Data collection

Information on external trade in goods is primarily based on customs declarations for imports and exports. The customs authorities register these declarations and Statistics Iceland has on-line access to the data. The data is checked and corrected as far as possible. Frequently the importer or exporter concerned is contacted in order to obtain further information or make corrections.
Data on external trade in goods is gathered from other sources as well. Thus the Icelandic Directorate of Shipping (Register of Vessels) and the Civil Aviation Administration, Flight Safety Department, supply information regarding purchases and sales of ships and aircraft and the importers or exporters concerned are contacted for further details. Statistics Iceland sends out inquiries regarding trading of ships and aircrafts abroad by Icelandic companies, quarterly to larger traders and yearly to SME’s. The Directorate of Shipping provides information on ships sent for conversions abroad. The companies concerned are subsequently contacted for closer details. As regards improvements of foreign vessels carried out by Icelandic companies, information is obtained from the relevant companies.


In general, Statistics Iceland follows the guidelines contained in the "United Nations: International Trade Statistics, Concepts and Definitions" as regards what to include in external trade in goods statistics, how and when. The statistics extend to merchandise trade, and by a general definition any imports or exports which add to or subtract from the stock of material resources of a country should be included in external trade statistics. A distinction is made between two systems of international trade statistics, the general trade system and special trade system. The main difference between these systems involves the method of registering goods imported to customs bonded warehouses and free zones. According to the general trade system an item of goods is registered as import on entry into a bonded warehouse or free zone, whereas according to the special trade system such an item would be registered on entry into a country from a bonded warehouse or free zone. In Iceland the general trade system was replaced by the special trade system as of mid year 1998.

The following are examples of items included in Icelandic external trade in goods statistics:
-Non-monetary gold
-Postal items
-Goods for processing
-Goods with a high value of service content (computer software etc.)
- Marine vessels and aircraft that engage in international transport
- Fish landed from foreign fishing vessels in Icelandic ports
- Fish sold abroad from Icelandic vessels and from convenience-flag vessels owned by Icelandic nationals
- Goods on financial lease (one year or more)
- Goods returned
- Major repair and renovation

The following are examples of items not included in Icelandic external trade in goods statistics: - Goods in transit
- Goods on temporary admission (e.g. imports or exports related to various trade fairs and exhibitions)
- Bunkers, stores, ballast and dunnage acquired abroad for Icelandic vessels or aircraft
- Illegal trade
- Goods consigned by the government to its embassies and diplomatic representatives abroad and goods supplied to foreign embassies and diplomatic representatives stationed in Iceland
- Monetary gold
- Goods on operational lease (less than one year)
- Repair trade
- Samples of small value
- Fish landed in Icelandic ports by convenience-flag fishing vessels owned by Icelandic nationals


HS numbers

The classification of goods in external trade is based on the nomenclature of the Icelandic Customs Tariff. The current tariff entered into force on 1 January 1988 according to the Customs Act No. 96/1987, amending the Customs Act No. 55/1987. It is based on the international Nomenclature of the Customs Cooperation Council in Brussels. The international classification is entitled the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also known in abbreviated form as HS. The Harmonized System was adopted by an international convention of the Customs Cooperation Council signed in Brussels in June 1983 and published in 1985. Iceland was party to this convention and ratified it in June 1986. The HS code entered into force in most of the member states of the Customs Cooperation Council on 1 January 1988. According to the current Customs Act, individual tariff numbers can be amended by means of a notification in Appendix I to the Act. Such amendments, of varying scope, have been made every year, partly in order to conform with changes to the HS.
The HS is a six-digit nomenclature in which the first two digits form chapters numbered 01-97, the goods being classified according to material. States that have signed the Harmonized System Convention have committed themselves to employ this six-digit system while being free to use a more detailed classification with a greater number of digits at the national level. Most of these states make use of more than six digits, some of them as many as ten. The Icelandic Customs Tariff is an eight-digit classification that complies with the six digits of the HS with the addition of two digits that are used in some instances for a more detailed breakdown according to Icelandic requirements. The HS includes just over 5,000 numbers whereas there are close to 6,800 numbers in the current Icelandic Tariff. A detailed analysis of exports and imports by HS numbers is found at Statistics Iceland website.

SITC (Standard International Trade Classification)

The Standard International Trade Classification, SITC, laid down by the United Nations Statistics Division, is intended for classifying goods for the production of statistics based on the principle of aggregating related goods into groups and divisions. In conjunction with the adoption of the HS classification, the SITC underwent a third revision. The SITC itself remained more or less intact, while the revision mainly involved the creation of a key linking the HS code and the SITC. Statistics Iceland adopted SITC, Rev. 3, in the beginning of 1988 when the new Customs Tariff entered into force and Rev. 4 was adopted in 2008. The classification units of the SITC are as follows:
- 10 one-digit sections
- 67 two-digit divisions
- 261 three digit groups
- 1,033 four-digit subgroups
- 3,118 five-digit items
A detailed analysis of exports and imports by SITC is found at Statistics Iceland website.

Classification of commodities

In 2001 the Icelandic SI classification of exports was abolished and replaced by a new classification by commodities. In the new classification, goods are grouped together as marine products, agricultural products, manufacturing products and other products as the older classification. However, the new classification is a pure commodities classification as far as possible, whereas the older one was a mixture of commodities and branches of processing. As an example of the new classification, marine products are now classified by species of fish regardless to how it is processed. After these changes, the classifications of exports by commodities and by branches of processing are linked in a matrix which allows the construction of two-dimensional tables on these subjects. A detailed analysis of exports by the SI classification is found at Statistics Iceland website.

Branches of processing

In 2001, the Icelandic classification of exports by branches of processing was revised and changed, mainly by a substantial increase in breakdown. After these changes, the classifications of exports by branches of processing and by commodities are linked in a matrix which allows the construction of two-dimensional tables on these subjects. This type of presentation is found at Statistics Iceland website.

Broad Economic Categories (BEC)

In Icelandic publications on external trade statistics for 1969-1987, imports were classified by economic categories into consumer goods, intermediate goods and capital goods. This was an Icelandic classification that was abolished in 1988 when it was substituted by the Classification by Broad Economic Categories issued by the Statistical Office of the United Nations. This is a relatively simple classification, divided into a total of 19 categories that are aggregated into 7 main sections. The version used by Statistics Iceland in external trade statistics has two additional categories for ships and aircraft. A detailed analysis of exports and imports by the BEC classification is found at Statistics Iceland website.


Statistics Iceland defines countries according to the international standard IS0-3166. Divisions between countries are based on country of consumption as regards exports and country of production as regards imports. Thus an attempt is made to identify the final destination of exported goods and the country of origin in case of imports rather than country of sale or purchase or the importing or exporting country as the case may be. On occasion, however, exporters have no knowledge of the final destination of their merchandise nor importers of the country of origin and in such cases the importing or exporting countries are registered.


The value of an imported item of goods is either presented at cif or fob value while exports are presented at fob value only. The fob (free on board) value means the price for the item when it is on board whatever means of transport in the country of export. Cif (cost, insurance, freight) value also includes costs induced until the item is unloaded in the country of import. This chiefly involves freight rates and insurance costs. It is customary for external trade statistics to present imports at their cif value and exports at their fob value. For reasons of national accountes production and various statistical analysis, however, both these methods have been applied to present import at Statistics Iceland website. According to the nature of the case, this rule, however, does not apply to fresh fish sold in foreign ports. In order to determine prices for this category of exports, certain cost items are subtracted from the gross-price value in varying proportions, depending on the country.

Figures on the value of exports and imports are reached by converting the foreign currency value of the commodity to Icelandic krónur (ISK) based on daily midrate the selling exchange rate of the currency concerned. Export figures, on the other hand, are based on buying rates of exchange. The reference rate of exchange is a so-called customs exchange rate, which is the official exchange rate as registered by the Central Bank of Iceland on the last working day before the date of customs clearance 28th of each month or, in case that date is not a working day, on the first following working day.


Quantity of imports and exports refers to net weight (i.e. weight without packaging) in tonnes unless otherwise specified. When the data is published by customs tariff numbers, in some instances the information includes other units, e.g. cubic metres (wood), pieces (horses, various items of clothing, automobiles, ships, aircraft etc.), pairs (shoes) or litres (wine).