Container Inspections. Are you next?

A notification that your ocean container is being held by U.S. Customs Border Patrol is no laughing matter.

Despite the obvious problems associated with container retention; such as time lost in receiving goods and fees associated with the retention, other elements play key roles in getting the containers released and on their way to you, the importer.

To counter act terrorism, the Customs Border Patrol (CBP) has the right to examine any shipment imported into the United States and as the importer must bear the cost of such cargo exams. Not only must the importer incur all costs, but the importer is also required to make the goods available for examination.

CBP exam fees vary, depending upon the size of the freight. In addition, other expenses could include fees in moving the cargo to and from the exam site, fees associated with storage of the container, and fees to reload your container for delivery.

While CBP does not disclose the examination information to the community due to national security risks, elements that do play a role for examination are the shippers, the tariff numbers, the country of origin, labeling issues, and the country of export, to name a few.

What can you, as an importer, do to reduce the risk of cargo examination?

First, if your business qualifies, consider becoming CTPAT certified. CTPAT (Customs and Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) is a voluntary organization that will not only ease your cargo’s entry into the United States, but will also provide you a CBP advocate should any problems occur.

Second, be sure your paperwork is in order. Correct and complete import documentation, along with timely filing, will give you a solid legal posture for any questions from CBP.