Most of you are familiar with U.S. Customs and Border Protection because of traveling for work or vacation. In the olden days, you started filling out your Customs form on the plane in the hour or two before landing – “two ugly t-shirts , 1 seashell wind chime, 4 pairs of sparkly flip-flops and 8 bottles of same tequila that encouraged me to purchase everything else”. Now there are apps for that, of course, but the process remains the same – log what you bought, have it reviewed by a CBP agent, head home. Done.
In retrospect, those relatively painless previous experiences may have lulled us into a bit of a sense of complacency about buying equipment from overseas, particularly as we weren’t the first group to import stills into Wisconsin. So when Dave got word that stills were prepped to ship, it occurred to us a day or two afterwards that it would make sense just to check in with the Customs contractor we hired to process the equipment once it hits the Port of Chicago. [Did you know there was an international port in Chicago? Me neither, despite having lived near it for several years. Interesting stuff: www.iipd.com] This was, in fact, a very lucky hunch, as the rest of the afternoon was filled with a mad scramble of paperwork that needed to be completed and filed that same evening. On the upside, it provided great fodder for this blog post.
What does it take to verify that two small-ish imported stills are not a danger to the country?
Glad you asked. This is a lightly paraphrased summary of the list of required steps provided to us. Emphasis delivered through use of ALL CAPS is that used by the customs broker. [Notes in brackets are from us.]
- All goods must be individually, permanently and conspicuously marked with the country of origin. [We had the same question you have right now and no, there is no official definition of conspicuous.] Unmarked merchandise are subject to seizure, and additional marking duties, and placing the importer in jeopardy for future examinations.
- Prior to any ocean freight shipment, an importer security filing (ISF) must be filed with US Customs and Border Protection, normally by your Customs Broker. There are 12 required data elements that must be addressed. [Lucky for us, this is handled by the shipper and iStill took care of that.] The foreign freight forwarder sends this to the US import processer in advance of shipment. The penalty for non-filing or inaccurate filing is $5,000.00 per occurrence.
- If any solid wood packaging is used, it is subject to the International Solid Wood Packing Materials (ISPM) regulations, and must be marked by a registered marked with the ISPM-15 Compliant stamp. There is a zero-tolerance policy on SWPM. If packaging is found to be non-compliant, the ENTIRE shipment must be exported to a non-contiguous country for removal of the illegal wood packing material.
- Carriers’ liability is normally less than the value of your shipment and therefore it is ALWAYS recommended that you secure additional All Risk Cargo Insurance.
- Customs clearance is preferred to be done in advance of the arrival of the merchandise in the USA. This minimizes or eliminates Storage or container demurrage charges, which start as soon as 2 days after the arrival of the merchandise.
- To clear the goods, for most commodities, at LEAST three documents are needed:
o Commercial Invoice: In English, showing full description, value and currency of the goods; Must be signed by the preparer and show country of origin; Should show terms of sale, normally using INCOTERMS 2010 version
o Packing List
o Bill of Lading [I’ll spare you the details. More paperwork]
- If you utilize a Customs Broker [like we are] to represent you in the transaction of Customs business, a Customs Power of Attorney needs to be executed and provided to the Broker, and must be signed by a principal or a corporate officer of the importer of record.
- If Customs decides to examine your cargo, you must pay for the fees associated for the imaging, or physical examination, as an additional responsibility for being an importer. This will add time and expense to your importation, so full compliance is necessary to ensure that future examinations are minimized.
- When the goods are released from the nationwide electronic entry presentation, the goods then can be delivered to the ultimate consignee, or packed up, as the individual situation dictates.
Finally, the various fees:
- Customs Clearance $140.00
- ISF Filing $35.00(ocean freight only)
- ISF Bond (if no Continuous Bond is on file) $35.00 (ocean freight only)
- Customs Entry Bond $5.00/$1000.00 of value plus duty (if any) Min $75.00
- Customs Duty - Per Harmonized Tariff Number
- Merchandise Processing Fee 0.3464%, Minimum $25.00, Maximum $485.00
- Harbor Maintenance fee 0.125%, No Minimum or Maximum (ocean freight only)
- Terminal and Warehouse Fees: At Cost + 3%
- Courier to surrender terminal fees or other charges $35.00 - per payment
- Exam Fees (if any) additional
What this means for us: We cross our fingers and hope that the paperwork is correct, the wooden shipping container isn’t illegal and that the agents inspecting incoming shipments that day don’t feel like digging around in our boxes and conducting an exam.
(And really, all of this is a fancy way to say – The stills are coming! The stills are coming!)
Until next time, friends. Go Pack!