I often hear from clients about shipments “stuck” in customs and, needless to say, they are always frustrated. The shipments may include critical parts needed for an equipment or plant shutdown, expensive high tech components not generally carried in inventory, or medical instruments for hospitals. Delayed orders also mean delayed payments which gets everyone’s attention.
The data used in customs entries comes directly from the commercial invoice for the transaction. All countries have different, and sometimes obscure, customs regulations. It is true, however, that most delays are caused by a few commercial invoice errors or omissions.
Commodity descriptions should answer the questions: What is it? What is it made of? What is it used for? Use plain language which can be understood by anyone. Avoid trade names, brand names, and jargon. These can be added below the description or to the packing list as needed. If using a harmonized code enter only the first 6 digits which are universal. All countries apply their own last 4 or 6 digits.
Value for customs may appear to be too low for the commodity being shipped. The customs agencies in the destination country need to make sure that duty rates are accurate and will hold up the shipment if in doubt. Make sure that your commercial invoice reflects the correct transaction value.
Recipient contact info is often lacking on the commercial invoice. Customs in the importing country will not contact the exporter if they have questions or issues. If they are unable to contact the importer the shipment will go into storage. Make sure you include recipient name, address, phone number, and e mail address on your CI.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for immediate assistance.