Without the proper know-how, international shipping can mean stress for business owners. However getting goods through Customs doesn’t have to be hard or traumatic. Fortunately, careful planning and attention to detail can keep product on the move.

Here are the most common causes for import delays.

1. Lack of required shipping documents

Know what is necessary to ship internationally; the requirements are often underestimated. Here are the most common errors when completing paperwork:

  • Content description is vague. The description must be detailed and accurate. For example, ‘computer parts’ requires those words AND the brand name, model, and serial number of the parts.
  • Shipment documentation is incomplete. Sometimes values, quantities or pages of the invoice are missing.
  • Incorrect product code.
  • Invoice or description is not in English.
  • Improper quantity or value. Goods are deliberately under-valued to avoid duties or taxes.
  • Textile samples are not prepared properly.

2. Incomplete shipper and consignee information

If the name or address is incomplete the shipment can be delayed while the carrier determines how the shipment should be handled.

3. Lack of description

The carrier needs to report to the CBP who is importing the goods and identify the commodity being imported. This information needs to be accurate for Customs and the customer.

4. Lack of Client Master File Data

This is the main reason for shipment delays. Shippers need to provide their carrier with their Power of Attorney, bond information and importer information in advance of the shipment arriving. Once the information is on file, all future shipments are covered. (Shipments valued at $2,500 or more need to have this type of information on file.)

Did you know? Eighty percent of delayed shipments can be linked to missing consignee information, poor descriptions or incomplete information.

So why do Customs and other government agency exams happen?

  • Customs may request an exam because the paperwork and shipments details are not complete. The description and or shipper/consignee cannot be identified. They will hold the shipments to view the contents.
  • They will also complete random exams, and if the item is approved it will be released. If it isn’t approved, Customs will place a flag in their system to hold all future shipments from this shipper or consignee. (This is the worst possible situation because it affects all future shipments.)
  • The customer has been identified as an issue and is now flagged in their system.
  • If a customer doesn’t correctly value their shipment, it can be flagged for examination.

DHL has an online service tool, Trade Automation Services, which offers quality up-to-date global trade information. Here you can estimate costs such as duties, taxes and other import fees upfront; ensure product compliance; compare costs and compliance for up to five different countries; create trade documents; and search for code classifications.

Keep these guidelines and resources in mind to avoid future delays and exams. The world is at your fingertips.

What tools do you use to keep up with trade regulations?