Visibility of US Customs Inspections & Holds

Understanding, communicating, and providing visibility to shippers/BCOs on inspections and holds that face their shipments is a key responsibility of logistics service providers. Before a shipment enters the US, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) collects shipment details through their Automated Manifest System (AMS). Customs cargo inspectors use a targeting system that gives a score to each shipment – higher scores can trigger holds and examinations. Although CBP stays quiet on the specifics of their targeting system, those flagged factors can lead to delays in your shipment’s schedule.

Unfortunately, these holds and examinations are decided by Customs, but the fees are passed along straight to shippers and BCO’s. So not only is this an extra cost, but a hold and/or exam means that their shipment is subject to unknown delays.

Congestion can cause ports and exam sites to get terribly backed up, costs associated with holds and exams add up, and a loss of overall visibility of your shipment can cause big problems for importers. LSPs can help and provide differentiating value to their shippers/BCOs by supplying in-depth visibility of container statuses through customs. Below we are outlining the common holds, exams, and fees associated with CBP shipments entering the U.S.

Logixboard’s new Automated Container Tracking (ACT) gives forwarders and their customers real-time, detailed container data.


US Customs Common Holds

If US Customs issues a hold on your shipment, chances are high that you’ve encountered one of the most common types of cargo holds below.

  • Manifest Holds: Cargo entering the US is manifested either via an ISF(ocean) and/or the AMS transmitted by the carrier. If CBP wants to verify this information, they may use this hold to request additional information and documents – based on data or the lack thereof on the carrier’s manifest and ISF.
  • Commercial Enforcement Holds: Any hold imposed by CBP, or another federal agency, may be called a general “commercial enforcement hold.” These holds are based on regulating copyright, trademark, safety requirements, licensing, or if CBP suspects the classification or valuation of the goods is incorrect.
  • PGA Holds: Other Participating Government Agencies (PGAs), for example the FDA, USDA, CPSC and a host of others, have a hand in regulating products entering the US. These agencies may instruct CBP to place holds on a shipment to ensure that it complies with their regulations.
  • Statistical Validation Holds: Inconsistencies between shipping documentation and the actual cargo, such as different weights, values, or commodity declarations, can cause your cargo to be put on hold.
  • CET Holds (A-TCET): The Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team places this hold on containers that may contain illegal contraband.

Logixboard collects line-item PGA statuses on a shipment and combines that with CBP data to provide US importers with the most comprehensive customs status.


US Customs Exams

If cargo has been flagged for examination after a hold, CBP agents can take a few days to a month (based on the exam) to complete exams at the port of arrival in compliance with Customs law.

  • VACIS/NII Exams: Known as a X-Ray, Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII), or a Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System Exam (VACIS) exam, this exam requires that your goods go through a giant x-ray machine for CBP agents to get a better look at the contents. VACIS/NII exam fees range from $150 – $350 per container, depending on the container size and port.
  • Tailgate ExamsThe Tailgate exam consists of customs agents opening the freight container and performing a brief visual check of the items inside. Fees range from $150 – $350 per container, depending on the container size and port.
  • Intensive Exams: Intensive exams put cargo through a thorough inspection by CBP at a CES location (Centralized Examination Station) – cargo will be taken to a warehouse, unloaded, sorted, and stripped. Samples of product can be taken by Customs if necessary.  Fees can run over $1,000 – $2,500, all dependent on the labor involved, container size, and port.  


US Customs Fees

When your container is being held by customs, delay fees will be accrued. These include admin fees, row fees, demurrage fees (per day), and shifting fees. Being on top of the location and status of a shipment is the surest way to avoid as many fee opportunities as possible when undergoing holds and exams.

  • Demurrage charges: Demurrage charges are costs incurred by customers for equipment usage when loaded cargo containers are left at the port terminals for longer than the free time allowed. 
  • Detention charges: Detention charges are costs incurred by the customer for equipment usage outside of the terminal, past the given free time.
  • Per diem charges: Per diem (per day) charges are detention fees of a fixed rate, charged per container per day until the equipment is returned to the port or container yard.


Final Thoughts

If you are managing LCL shipments as a freight forwarder or freight broker, not having critical tracking data available by container for your customer means your shipment visibility will not give them the full picture of their order’s journey. It is vital for customers to be able to know the status of their containers at terminals where customs holds and fees can cost you and the shipper time and money. 

Logixboard has added the Automated Container Tracking (ACT) feed to their dashboard to give LSPs the ability to offer that detailed container data to customers. ACT populates Logixboard, in real-time, with important container tracking data using feeds from international ocean carriers and U.S and Canadian port terminals. Your operators won’t have to manually search carrier and terminal sites for the most recent container ETAs. They can now focus on higher value activities for you and your customers.

Granular container data and visibility adds value for your customers and prospects that will differentiate you against your competitors and set you up to continue to lead the industry in the quality of shipment visibility offered.

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