What’s the Deal With Shipments Stuck in Customs?

Ever wonder why so many goods get rejected or get stuck in customs for weeks at a time? Why can’t shipping just be simple? Across the globe individual countries have their own distinct reasons for banning various goods, and there are many reasons as to why they stop certain items for weeks at a time only to ultimately decide to let these items go through. Here’s why:

When goods are rejected by the government of an importer’s country it is typically for only one reason. The country of the importer has banned the importation of the particular good. A prime example is Singapore. Singapore has an absolute ban on the importation of chewing gum. Other countries have banned the importation of various types of used or refurbished equipment. Goods may also be rejected if they are not properly labeled or marked with required certifications. Therefore, consumers are required to conduct proper research in advance of any sales to determine that there are not particular restrictions on their goods that would result in the goods’ exclusion from the country of import.

But let’s say gum is being shipped into a country where it isn’t banned from. There’s a possibility that the gum being shipped gets stuck in customs, and there are a number of reasons this can happen. Whether it be gum or any product being shipped from country to country for that matter, there are several key reasons customs can delay the shipping.

First and foremost, missing commercial documents: complete and thorough commercial documents are required for an import broker to file Customs entry with US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the importer. The most common commercial documents are: Commercial invoice — Invoice that lists commodities of goods, origin, seller, and buyer. Bill of Lading — Document issued by carrier that shows ownership of freight and transportation. Packing List — Document that shows quantity, weights, and measurements of goods. Arrival Notice — Issued by carrier to notify party to advise goods location and available for Customs release. Depending on the type of goods, this could also include a Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) declaration, Dangerous Goods Declaration, or other government agency forms (EPA, FCC, FDA).

The second key reason is that the broker or notify party is missing. On a Bill of Lading, a proper notify party should be listed for arrival notification. This is often listed as the importer’s customs broker. The freight forwarder or carrier will send the arrival notice and commercial documents to the customs broker for import. If this information is not properly listed on the Bill of Lading, cargo can arrive to the port of entry and collect storage while the carrier or freight forwarder tries to turn over the shipment to the importer to file the entry.

Third is an incomplete commercial invoice. The complete commercial invoice is used to file Customs declaration on behalf of the importer. It is important that all of the information reflects the transaction accurately to ensure all Customs regulations are complied. The commercial invoice for entry at minimum requires description of goods, buyer, seller, shipper, ship to location, quantity, weight, value, currency, country of origin of each product and classification. Any information missing can delay the shipment as the broker is required to report the information on the Customs entry prior to release.

Additionally, items getting stuck can be caused by a missing country of origin. The country of origin is identified as where a product is manufactured, produced, processed, or grown. Importers will frequently mistake country of origin as the country from where the goods were shipped or the country where simple assembly of goods took place. Simple assembly such as packing, painting, or washing of parts does not determine the country of origin as the good has to meet substantial transformation to be considered the country of origin. Country of origin is required to be listed for each item on the commercial invoice.

Lastly, a missing HTS classification. The HTS classification is required to be listed per item on the commercial invoice per the Codes of Federal Regulation. The classification is required to be filed in the customs entry and determines the amount of duty that will be paid. Please note that if OGA regulations apply such as EPA, FCC, FDA, etc., specific additional product information is required.

Roughly 621 million pieces of international shipments entered the U.S. from foreign countries in 2016 and about 85% of these shipments were accepted and sent through customs. Unfortunately though, 17% of the items that made their way through were massively delayed. Specifically two to three weeks at minimun.

Such a hassle… poor people have no clue why their items are stuck.

As if customs didn’t make things complicated enough, there are additional reasons that goods may get entirely rejected rather than just postponed.

Often times the importer may reject the goods because of mistakes by the exporter. The exporter may have shipped the wrong goods, defective goods or goods that were improperly packaged or labeled.

Other times, goods are rejected because they arrive damaged or the goods are significantly delayed in delivery. Unless the goods were in a damaged condition when they were packed, goods damaged during the course of shipment are the responsibility of the shipper. If risk of loss is still with the exporter, the exporter will need to make arrangements to ship replacement goods. Next step is to contact the freight forwarder to file a claim with the cargo insurance company. If the risk of loss is with the importer the exporter needs to provide the importer with all necessary information to file a claim with the cargo insurance company and make arrangements to ship replacement goods. Pretty inconvenient and pretty complicated, right?

Well it’s a good thing Shippa is minimizing the complexity of international shipping and simplifying logistics. With Shippa, an actual human will be personally shipping your product(s) for you from country to country. They’ll fly directly from the items’ local country to your local country to deliver to you. This takes away the risk of your item(s) potentially getting stuck in customs for weeks at a time. While the product(s) is accompanied by a person, the product(s) will then therefore move straight through customs without any long-term delays.

As seen on Quora, people aware of the complications with customs are commonly asking what they can do to prevent it… https://www.quora.com/Why-would-a-package-shipped-via-USPS-from-the-US-to-an-APO-in-South-Korea-get-stuck-in-customs-in-the-Philippines-Is-this-normal-It-s-been-there-for-a-week

The answer is simple: Shippa.