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Roundup of Developments at the CBP Trade Symposium

By Lara A. Austrins

Benjamin L. England Customs and Trade Team

Here’s a roundup of developments of interest to the transportation and customs broker communities which were announced at the Trade Symposium recently hosted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Chicago July 23 – 24, 2019:

  1. Risk-Based Increases in Importer Bond Amounts

CBP officials emphasized several times at the Symposium that it has been issuing insufficiency notices on bonds to better reflect importers’ increased liability for Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs.  While the increase in premiums for higher value bonds in most cases is not terribly significant, as the face value of the bond increases, so does the sureties’ liability.  Increased liability has had a significant impact on the cash collateral that sureties are demanding in connection with ADD/CVD entries, and we wonder if similar cash collateral requirements will make their way into bonds securing entries subject to Section 301 and Section 232 duties as well.

  1. Potential for Increased Enforcement Actions

Knowledgeable CBP officials stated at the Symposium that “trade remedy enforcement” is “one of the major priorities” of the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE).  Our experience is that the CEEs are bringing meaningful sophistication to trade agreement and trade remedy enforcement, with their greater expertise, product knowledge, sharing of information, and improved targeting models. 

Symposium participants told us that given the large duty increases imposed under Section 301 and Section 232 and the easy accessibility of unlawful transshipment and other methods for evading the tariffs, they expect a wave of CBP enforcement actions to hit starting approximately six months from now.  Indeed, CBP officials told reporters (but not attendees) at the Symposium that they would like Congress to amend the Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA) to expand the CBP’s current ability to investigate and punish antidumping and countervailing duty evasion to all duty evasion (including evasion of Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs).

Given these developments, now would be a good time for importers to increase their due diligence in assuring themselves of the actual origin of their goods.  If importers have not already done so, we believe that it would behoove them to conduct factory visits, verify the presence and good working order of production equipment, confirm factory purchases of raw materials sufficient to produce the goods they are importing, verify that an adequate, trained workforce is in place at the factory to produce their imported goods, etc.

  1. Changes to Broker Regulations

The customs brokerage community has long been waiting for the issuance of the proposed broker regulations, which would include changes to powers of attorney and cybersecurity requirements.  One major change anticipated in the proposed broker regulations will be the replacement of the district permit and national permit with one single permit that operates at the national level within the Customs territory of the United States.  Additional guidance will most likely be issued at some point addressing the factors customs brokers of varying sizes must satisfy to ensure that they are exercising responsible supervision and control over their customs business.  Knowledgeable CBP officials tell us that the proposed regulations are undergoing review, and we are hopeful that they will be published within the next year or sooner.

  1. Enhancements in Cargo Inspection on the Southwestern Border

CBP has received significant funding to put new, non-intrusive inspection systems in place on the Southwestern Border, which should significantly speed the flow of truck traffic.  Due to the strength of energy emissions from CBP’s current truck-scanning equipment at the border, drivers of trucks seeking to cross the border from Mexico are required to exit the cab before the truck is scanned.  However, CBP officials stated at the Symposium that new equipment will be put in place which will allow truck drivers to remain in the truck while the truck is scanned, thereby significantly speeding the pace of inspection (truck drivers will retain the option to exit the truck during scanning if they wish).

  1. Ways to Manage Risk Presented by Rapid Growth in e-commerce

Finally, the rapid growth in the e-commerce environment and how to manage the increased risks that come along with such growth were central discussions at the Trade Symposium.

This increase in e-commerce is further fueled by the fact that  the value of goods that can be imported by one person in one day free of duty and taxes, the so called de minimis value, under Section 321 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, was increased in 2016 from $200 to $800 (“321 shipments”).  This increase in de minimis value along with the growing popularity of e-commerce has contributed to the exponential growth of low value shipments (321 shipments) crossing our borders over the past few years.

According to CBP 1.8 million 321 shipments are entering the United States daily.  The ease of online shopping clearly has changed consumer purchasing habits resulting in the growth of e-commerce, and the growth shows no sign of decreasing or leveling off.  At the Symposium, both CBP and FDA officials highlighted the greatly increased risk of entry of counterfeit goods (including counterfeit pharmaceuticals and health and beauty products) and other illicit goods via de minimis e-commerce shipments.

As per officials at the Symposium, CBP has taken the following actions to address these risks:

  1. Electronic Advance Manifest Submission for 321 Shipments by Truck

Advance electronic manifest submissions for all 321 shipments by truck must be filed in ACE in accordance with the guidelines specified in the Trade Act of 2002.  This requirement is in full effect and failure to include 321 shipments on ACE manifests could result in monetary penalties issued by CBP.

Prior to this year, 321 shipments were exempt from advance electronic manifest filing requirements.  However, the significant increase of 321 shipments by truck resulted in slower processing times and longer wait times at the borders, as CBP was unable to conduct risk assessments or perform advance targeting on 321 shipments.   As a result, CBP changed its policy at the beginning of this year to require electronic advance manifest filing submissions in ACE for all 321 shipments by truck.  While the current cargo manifest implementation guide states the maximum number of shipments is 9,999, the 9,999 shipments can be submitted multiple times against a single manifest using instructions which are provided for via a web link in CSMS #19-000156, which can be found at

As the advance electronic manifest submission in ACE of 321 shipments entering by truck is in full effect, the failure to include 321 shipments on ACE manifests may result in monetary penalties issued by CBP at $5,000 for the first offense.

  1. CBP Conducting Section 321 Data Pilot Program to Consider Advance Data Submission Requirements for Low Value Shipments

On July 22, 2019, CBP published Federal Register notice of its intention to begin a voluntary test to collect certain advance data for low-value entries that may be eligible for Section 321 exemptions. 

According to the notice, “CBP is conducting this test to determine the feasibility of requiring advance data from different types of parties and requiring additional data that is generally not required under current regulations in order to effectively identify and target high-risk shipments in the ecommerce environment.” See 84 FR 35408. 

CBP realizes that currently, it is not receiving sufficient advance information to determine the risk presented by 321 shipments. The purpose of the pilot is to allow CBP to use the advance information to improve its ability to effectively and efficiently identify and target high-risk shipments, including for narcotics, counter-proliferation, and health and safety risks.

Eligible participants that can join the pilot include carriers, customs brokers, freight forwarders, and online marketplaces of any size, location or commodity type, regardless of whether they offer delivery logistic services. 

The pilot applies to each Section 321 shipment destined for the United States, arriving by air, truck, or rail and will operate in all ports of entry utilized by the participants for Section 321 shipments.  It will not apply to any mail shipments, shipments arriving by ocean or shipments destined for a Foreign Trade Zone.

The benefits of participation may vary. One benefit is that CBP may expedite clearances for low-risk Section 321 shipments when enough test data has been received prior to the shipment’s arrival.

The pilot will begin Aug. 22, 2019 and operate for a one-year period.  Once the pilot program is completed, CBP will evaluate the results to determine whether to extend and/or expand the pilot to include additional participants.  It will also decide whether additional advance reporting requirements are necessary in the e-commerce environment.

  1. CBP Entry Type 86 Pilot

In addition to the test pilot for advanced data collection on Section 321 entries, CBP officials announced the creation of  a new entry type (Entry Type 86), which will allow customs brokers and importers to send Partner Government Agency (PGA) data in conjunction with the basic data elements for 321 shipments.  Use of this new entry type may alleviate the concerns raised by FDA and other PGAs regarding the potential for unlawful goods evading review through use of the 321 process.  CBP stated that it will be issuing a Federal Register notice in the near future regarding the pilot program to test the new Entry Type 86, and that it intends to roll out the new Entry Type 86 on Sept. 28, 2019.

Please contact me if you would like to get additional information regarding these or any other Customs and trade matters.

Lara A. Austrins is a member of Benjamin L. England & Associates’ Customs and Trade Team and concentrates on issues arising from the movement of goods between countries.  She regularly deals with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Commerce, and other agencies that regulate U.S. imports and exports. She can be reached by email at or at (410) 220-2800.

Summer Sizzles, But Transporting Hazardous Materials Should Not

By Sonia Irusta
Vice President
Bureau of Dangerous Goods, Ltd.

Summer officially begins on June 21. Keeping an eye on the calendar is important when it comes to transporting hazardous materials. The manufacturing and distribution of products defined as hazmat increases as the temperature increases. Products for personal care and/or household goods as well as industrial chemicals are transported daily by ground, air, and sea. So why is this time of year any different from any other? The answer is simple: warmer weather conditions can impact hazardous materials/dangerous goods.

Hazmat and Heat

Nearly all chemicals are affected by high heat and humidity. The potential for chemicals to react and undergo changes increases as the temperature of the material rises. In addition, materials with greater volatility may produce higher levels of dangerous vapors at elevated temperatures.

When dealing with liquids, those with high vapor pressure and low boiling points should be of particular concern. When shippers prepare packages of hazmat for safe transportation, they must take into consideration the normal conditions of transport. That means factoring environmental changes which may be encountered, such as temperature extremes.

Chemicals and Pressures

Depending on the volatility of a chemical, increasing the temperature to which a container is exposed can increase the internal pressure exerted on it. Inner and single packagings intended to transport liquids and receptacles for gases must be successfully tested to sustain certain internal and external pressures. Despite this, the external temperature may increase the internal pressure beyond that for which the container is tested, consequently rupturing the receptacle and releasing the contents.

Depending on the quantity and nature of the material, the safety of personnel and the public could be seriously jeopardized. Some containers exposed to high heat may noticeably bulge, and those made of metal may exhibit a metallic “pinging” sound as internal pressure increases. This increase in pressure could also cause caps and lids to pop off.

The sound of escaping vapors indicates not only high internal pressure, but also that the material likely has a high vapor pressure and that, under the current atmospheric conditions, will produce a large quantity of vapors. If these vapors are flammable or toxic, the potential for dangerous exposure for anyone nearby will increase. Aerosols stored at extremely high temperatures can violently rupture and rocket, endangering personnel and property.

No one should transport any package containing hazmat that’s compromised due to heat. Transportation will only increase the risk of release.

Regulations for Transporting Hazardous Materials in the Heat

The IATA dangerous goods regulations address this risk specifically for self-reactive substances of Division 4.1 and organic peroxides of Division 5.2 being transported by air. They require the “Keep Away from Heat” label to be shown, along with a statement on the Shipping Declaration requiring the material to be protected from direct sunlight and sources of heat, in an adequately ventilated area. These are sensible storage practices to employ for all dangerous goods being stored or transported when temperatures are elevated.

To reduce risk, move containers from an area of direct sunlight into one that is shaded or cooler and well-ventilated. (These safeguards also apply to the transport vehicle the material is being transported in.) Pay attention to warehouse storage areas where materials may receive direct sunlight, such as near loading dock doors, and adjust storage accordingly.

Undergoing Hazmat Training Is Crucial

Proper training in accordance with Federal and International regulations can provide all the up-to-date information you need for preventing incidents related to improper packaging use as well as providing segregation requirements to prevent shipping incompatible dangerous goods.

Sonia Irusta is a highly accomplished business and technical professional instrumental in domestic and international transportation solutions for shippers, freight forwarders and carriers. She can be reached at Bureau of Dangerous Goods (609) 860.0300 Ext. 327 or via E-mail 

Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority Maps its Strategy and Presents its Plans

Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority

130 E.Atwater Street Detroit,Michigan 48226


June 18, 2019 – The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has listened to its stakeholders and mapped the route to success. The plan was presented to a group of public and private sector representatives on Monday, June 10, and received with overwhelming support.

“With a strategy in hand, we’re eager to start living our mission in a more visible way,” said Kyle Burleson, DWCPA Executive Director. “We’re dedicated to bringing the Port of Detroit into the 21st century and setting it up to scale with the continued growth of our region. Timing to tackle this couldn’t be better with Federal funding being specifically designated for ports. To do all of this right, we will be bringing down old silos working on collective impact.”

Since the kick-off of the Port Forward initiative in March, three work groups were formed and used as a platform to collect input on infrastructure, business development, and government relations. Supporting research on best practices and expert interviews rounded out the situational analysis and allowed for strategic planning to commence. An emphasis on re-building relationship was set as a priority.

DWCPA Board President, Shannon Price, emphasized the work on relationships. “We realize the importance of communicating with other organizations to build -and keep- our reputation as an agency to support and partner with others for the good of our business community,” he said. “Our actions in the last few months have already yielded results with cooperative projects underway.”

To summarize the course of action over the next 18 months, the DWCPA presented its objectives. “First we want to develop a strategic relationship with Customs and Border Protection that enables growth of international cargo business for Michigan manufacturers,” said Burleson. Simultaneously, DWCPA will be prioritizing dock and security projects that will improve service in the current state of the port. Relationships continue to be critical and thus communications will be increased to address challenges and promote the port’s capabilities.

Looking to the mid-term, DWCPA will partner with stakeholders to delineate a recognizable “Port District” that caters to multi-modal industrial developments including warehousing, assembly, manufacturing, distribution, and storage. DWCPA would like to develop the Port District as site ready and market the property as the most unique industrial property in Michigan with port, rail, and freeway services. Simultaneously, strategic relationships with communities and economic development agencies from Wayne County, the City of Detroit, and throughout Downriver to embed a port culture for jobs, investment, and recreation will continue to grow. “Ultimately,” said Burleson, “we wish to establish the Port of Detroit as a statewide maritime thought leader. Through this objective, we will be at our best to assist port-related agencies and projects, as is our mission.”

Next steps for the DWCPA are to refine projects under review with partners, send a delegation to Washington D.C. to educate government officials on the Port of Detroit and lobby for Federal grant support and submit a grant application for the BUILD grant program in July.


Conferences, Conferences and Bugs…educate yourself and your team and spread good will, not invasive species

By Debbie Dent
Director, Program Services
Border Connect, Inc.


Registration for the 2019 CTPAT Conference in San Antonio, TX will open June 3, 2019 at 10 am EDT

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has released its 2019 CTPAT Conference information after weeks of only a “save-the-date” notification. The conference will be held in San Antonio, TX. The conference dates are June 25 – 26, 2019.  June 25 will be a general session with multiple speakers and panel discussions.  June 26 will be a day of workshops.  Both days will begin at 8 am and conclude around 5:30 pm.  

  • The registration fee is $142 USD. Registration must be made online.
  • Payment must be made by credit card via the online system.
  • Registration for the conference will be confirmed and processed on a first-come, first-served basis once payment has been received. 
  • Please monitor your email and the CTPAT website for the registration link that opens on June 3, 2019 at 10 am EDT
  • Any questions please write the 2019 CTPAT Conference mailbox at:  

Agriculture Pest Contamination

 Agriculture is the largest industry and employment sector in the U.S., with more than $1 trillion dollars in economic activity.  Agriculture Pest Contamination will soon be a CTPAT highway carrier responsibility under a new category of transportation security. New sections like this one will include detailing internal controls for compliance, auditing practices, documentation and disciplinary procedures.

Recently another business associate brought to our attention some new rules that came into affect on May 1, 2019 that can be used to demonstrate compliance to this new responsibility:

Permits and Training Required by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to Prevent Spread of Spotted Lantern Fly, Effective May 2019

 To prevent the further spread of the Spotted Lanternfly (which is damaging to agriculture), a series of quarantined areas have been designated in southeastern Pennsylvania and in and around Philadelphia. The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species of insects from Asia that first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014.

If your trucks stop in the quarantine zones for any purpose (other than for refueling or at a traffic signal), including to take a rest break, your drivers are required to obtain training and a permit is required for the truck.

The training and permits are FREE and can be completed online. Enforcement will commence May 2019 with roadside stops. States that surround the quarantine areas (NY, DE and NJ) will also be conducting stops, checking logs and bills of lading. All surrounding states will be recognizing permits and training received through the Pennsylvania program.

A company manager will have to take a short online course through Penn State’s Agriculture Extension Service. The training typically takes 1.5 hours or less to complete. Once completed, the manager can order the permits and train drivers and warehouse workers.

After online training is completed, companies will be able to request the number of permits they require. Permits are sent via mail and arrive within 2-3 weeks.

For detailed information on the training and permits, please go to For an interactive map of the affected areas, please click here.

For some additional information here is another helpful link: ttps://   

Upcoming Detroit area event (Save the Date):

8th Annual Trade Day at Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit will be held Tuesday, August 13, 2019 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  This event provides trade with an opportunity to interact with CBP personnel, Detroit Field Office trade staff, Canadian Government Officials and a multitude of representatives from Partner Government Agencies (PGA). In addition, formal presentations shall be given continuously throughout the day providing information on current programs and policies relating to import and export of merchandise.

Registration for this free event shall be open until July 26, 2019 and can be completed online at To register after that date please e-mail the Trade Team at  . The same e-mail can be used if you have questions related to this event.

The only thing consistent in the world of international business is change!

Debbie Dent can be reached at 1-800-596-5176 or by e-mail

Compliance From the Top Down

By Stephanie Congiusta
Lead Sales and Marketing Admin.
Bureau of Dangerous Goods, Ltd.

While safety and compliance in the handling and transportation of dangerous goods or hazardous materials should be a top priority for every organization, the importance of and emphasis on these things varies from organization to organization.  As a sales representative at the Bureau of Dangerous Goods, I’ve been disheartened to discover the lack of priority when it comes to safety and compliance with the regulations.  From one perspective, I understand why this phenomenon occurs across the dangerous goods industry.  Regardless of the reason, whether it be due to a lack of understanding about compliance or that it’s viewed as a financial burden, this seems to happen all too often.

Some of the best organizations that I’ve come across in my five years as a sales representative of compliance products are ones where there is an emphasis on safety and compliance, which all begins with management.  When I say that they are the “best,” what I mean is that they are not only extremely easy to work with, but they incur minimal risks and penalties.  Managers who prioritize safety and compliance promote the importance of it down to the employees who are involved in the day to day dangerous goods operations.  Employees will naturally adapt to their upper managers’ practices and philosophies.  

On the other hand, in an organization where safety and compliance are not a priority, problems are likely to occur.  I’ve spoken to many dangerous goods shippers and handlers who have trouble getting the funding approved for compliance services such as training, software, and consulting.  This in turn leads to the staff not being adequately trained and lacking the necessary resources to perform their job functions related to dangerous goods shipments. When management does not set high expectations related to a dangerous goods program, their hazmat employees may be susceptible to adopting the philosophy and misconception that safety and compliance are not priorities.  In the worst case scenario, neglecting safety and compliance can cause devastating accidents and put lives at risk when transporting dangerous goods.  

While compliance and safety can be seen as overhead expenses and unnecessary, it’s important to allocate funds to an annual budget for training, software, and consulting services as needed.  A prime example of a poor decision-making process is opting for a cheaper, shortened version of dangerous goods training programs to save time and money in the short term.  What’s not realized when making this decision is the long term consequences. Hazmat employees must receive adequate training for them to properly, efficiently and safely perform their job functions.  

The Bureau of Dangerous Goods is known for being one of the top compliance companies in the world.  We often hear comments such as, “I now feel prepared and confident to apply what I have learned in the training to perform my job.”  Many of the organizations that seek out BDG’s services prioritize safety and compliance, because compliance is a primary concern that will later translate into safety.  We are extremely thankful for management and their teams that we work with who practice what they preach. Compliance and Safety always come first!

Written by Stephanie Congiusta, Lead Sales and Marketing Admin at BDG

CBP U.S. Bond Changes continue to be confusing: combat the problem by being pro-active and attending local events

By Debbie Dent
Director, Program Services
Border Connect, Inc.


The Detroit Field Office will host another Annual Carrier Meeting from 1 – 3 pm on June 6, 2019 at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Offices, 300 River Place Drive, Suite 5900, Detroit, MI, 48207. How to register and finalizing the agenda is currently under way by CBP and industry trade partners.

Eighth Annual Trade Day at Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit will be held Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.  This event provides trade with an opportunity to interact with CBP personnel, Detroit Field Office trade staff, Canadian Government Officials and a multitude of representatives from Partner Government Agencies (PGA). In addition, formal presentations shall be given continuously throughout the day providing information on current programs and policies relating to import and export of merchandise.

Registration for this free event shall be open until July 26, 2019 and can be completed online at

To register after that date please e-mail the Trade Team at . The same e-mail can be used if you have questions related to this event.

U.S. Bond Changes continue to be confusing

Changes made related to the handling of U.S. bonded merchandise continues to be confusing to the trade community, especially carriers.  Carriers are expected to electronically report the arrival and location of the in-bond merchandise within 48 hours of arrival at the port of destination or port of exportation. Although this change is still under soft enforcement some carriers when arriving at the port of destination or export find themselves being turned away from CBP indicating the paper presentation cannot be used to close or arrive the bond.  The driver then proceeds to delivery leaving the carrier in a vulnerable position. Many carriers are not currently prepared to communicate this information electronically.  Calls to customs brokers or freight forwarders or the booking agent to the load result in additional confusion.  As a result, higher than normal issuance of penalties are occurring.

If you are interested in learning more information related to this topic or interested in a solution that will allow you to arrive/ export and complete status queries directly with CBP please contact

Several events are being planned related to these U.S. bond changes and will be announced soon.  Check events page listing of

Hope to meet some of you at these events this year!

The only thing consistent in the world of international business is change!

Debbie Dent can be reached at 1-800-596-5176 or by e-mail

Electronic Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (e-DGD)

By Pieter G. Wildschut

The Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (DGD) is a crucial document that accompanies a shipment of dangerous goods through every step of the transportation process. It’s one of the main responsibilities of a shipper who offers dangerous goods for transport. Although for decades the DGD has been produced in paper format, nowadays both the ICAO Technical Instructions and the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations foresee the possibility of using electronic data processing (EDP) and electronic data interchange (EDI) transmission techniques, which are completely valid alternatives to paper documentation. Thus, the Electronic Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (eDGD) has become a reality.

The eDGD project started in 2016. The proof of concept stage ended two years later, and now the eDGD is ready to be implemented by all stakeholders in the transport chain. It is a process that involves shippers, forwarders, and operators. The shipper is still the agent that prepares the DGD, but in this case a digital interface is used on any kind of electronic device, that is able to send this data to the forwarder. The forwarder will assign this shipment to an airline, adding an air waybill number; later, this operator will be able to perform an acceptance check, using only the received electronic data, without the need for paper documents.

The test period has proved that the electronic DGD provides a series of benefits to the agents that have been working with it. The replacement of all papers documents with an electronic flow of data has increased the efficiency of the process, reflecting positively on its transparency as well. Using a standard format in an appropriate platform, where the data is created once and then shared through the whole transport chain, has resulted in faster processes. Pursuing better data quality should be an objective of every agent, sustained in a better traceability and extensive quality checks, which are performed more efficiently. The reduction of paper consumption will bring additional advantages in savings and environmental improvements. And last but not least: safety in the air transport of dangerous goods will be served better, when chances for mistakes are ruled out.

Together with other software applications, the electronic transmission of data can become even more convenient. For example, there is an evident synergy with applications that allow for an easy validation of the information provided in a document, or with those that contain a database that cross-references the information introduced with the regulations (such as DGM’s very own software DGOffice). This way, agents will be able to reduce human mistakes to a minimum.

However, there are still barriers to the eDGD, such as the inevitable resistance to change plus the necessary investment in order to implement new ways to work and new technologies, or legal barriers in countries that have not authorized the use of electronic data transmission for dangerous goods transport documents. Organizations such as ICAO (UN body) and IATA (association of airlines), are advocating around the globe to adopt the provisions in the ICAO Technical Instructions into their national legislations, in order to permit the use of electronic data instead of paper versions of the DGD.

DGM, having 66 locations in 35 countries all over the world, is ready to implement the use of the electronic DGD in freight of dangerous goods. The company contributed to the testing of the e-DGD with its software product DGOffice which is one of the approved platforms to use for the e-DGD.

Author Pieter G. Wildschut, based in the DGM’s global headquarters at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Surprise or Shock? Managing Trade in a World of Change

By Paul Vandevert, Principal,
OCHIM Trade Law PLC.

We all know the axiom “Things change; they never stay the same.”  But, as we go about our daily lives, we seem to forget it or even wish it not to be true.  That can be a problem for importers and their service providers, particularly in a time when many aspects of trade are changing, such as dramatically increased tariffs on many goods, some of which had been duty free for years.  In order for importers to stay compliant and/or not miss a duty savings opportunity, it’s critical for Customs brokers and trade services providers to check in with their importer clients and do a thorough review of what they’re importing today. 

Here’s a checklist of topics to cover:

What is your client importing now?  While it may seem that a client’s business is the same as it has been for the past 17 years, advances in technology and changing market conditions have caused profound shifts in what many companies are importing.  For example, a supplier in the automotive industry made parts that historically were entirely mechanical.  Imported inputs were generally metal castings or parts.  Today, however, while the end product from this supplier still has the same name, what was mechanical is now electronic.  Where the supplier used to import metal products, now most imports are electrical, such as circuit boards and switches.  Meet with your importer client in person and look at physical samples of what they’re importing today.  There could be a few surprises!

How has the supply chain and manufacturing process evolved?  Globalization has made the manufacturing process both more complex and geographically dispersed.  Manufacturers used to make a finished product in one place with all of the inputs acquired and collected at that one location.  Today, however, final assembly entails both individual parts and subassemblies or complex components produced at foreign intermediate locations before reaching the final assembly site.  A key component may still be sourced from China, but now is shipped to Mexico where it’s incorporated into a subassembly with other parts before being shipped to the United States.  The subassembly from Mexico is likely, although not certainly, to have a different country of origin and different tariff classification than the key component from China.  Filing an entry based on what the importer used to do which may not be anything like what the import is today is not the kind of surprise either importer or service provider wants to experience!

In today’s world, communication between the importer and service provider is key, but the conversation may have to be initiated by the service provider.  Most importers are not going to keep up to date on changes to the tariff schedule.  Many importers will not realize the significance of changing what they import, especially if they believe they’ve stayed in the same general line of business.  Keeping current in the world of trade will let importer and service provider alike enjoy the wonder of change and avoid the shock.

Paul Vandevert founded OCHIM Trade Law in 2018, after serving for more than 23 years as in-house trade counsel at Ford and GM.  OCHIM Trade Law’s mission is to apply Paul’s 30+ years of knowledge and experience in all aspects of international trade and Customs law to deliver practical, strategic solutions to importing and exporting firms of all sizes. He can be reached at 313-737-3675 or 

Be Prepared! Customs Maintenance

By Paul Vandevert, Principal, 
OCHIM Trade Law PLC.

Many years ago, shortly after I moved with my wife to Michigan and bought our first house, we woke up on New Year’s Day to nearly two feet of snow on the ground.  Just the year before, as part of the new homeowner experience, we had bought a snowblower.  As I bundled up and headed to the garage, I felt so proud of myself.  I was ready for this!  In 20 minutes, a half-hour tops, the driveway and the sidewalk would be cleared, and I’d be back in the house enjoying a cup of coffee.  That 20 minutes later and more, I was standing knee-deep in snow, loudly cursing the snowblower, which wouldn’t give me even a grumble no matter how hard I yanked the starter rope.  Reading from the owner’s manual, my wife admonished me that we should have emptied the gas tank at the end of winter last year and filled it with fresh gas at the beginning of winter this year.  That’s when I really learned that everything we use and often rely upon needs periodic upkeep and refreshing, whether it’s your car, teeth or snow blower.

Import and export operations are no different.  Things are always changing; they never remain the same.  The change can be incredibly minor such as the elimination or addition of statistical level tariff headings or really big, like the country of origin or the product itself.  The obligation to keep trade activities current falls equally on the business engaged in importing or exporting and their service providers — Customs brokers and freight forwarders, who very often are that business’s Customs or Export “department.”  The consequences of sticking with the status quo could mean waking up to a trade “blizzard” where duty costs are suddenly more than 10 times what they were just yesterday and in the panic and shock, no one seems to know what, if anything, can be done.

Focusing on imports, how sure are you that the HTS code being applied is the correct one for the goods actually being imported?  Is the country of origin being declared in the entry really the country of origin of the imports?  Has the importer changed its product so that the inputs aren’t the same ones they were importing a few years ago?  In just the past year, I have encountered examples of all of these scenarios. 

One importer was classifying an automotive sub-assembly from Mexico based on the tariff classification and country of origin of the motor from China that was just one component of the entire assembly.  This was because the importer talked about the assembly as a motor, and no one had looked at a drawing or a sample of the full sub-assembly in its condition at the time of importation.

Recently, another business that produces a major component for automotive powertrains completely redesigned and reengineered the primary product, changing it from a mechanical part to an electrical one.  While the imported inputs still have some mechanical functions and the end result in the vehicle is the same, the essential character of the parts is different.  That meant a different HTS code should have been applied.

These situations came to light because the importers were struck with the trade equivalent of two feet of snow in the driveway when U.S. tariffs were jacked up to 10% and 25% on steel, aluminum and a host of goods, particularly intermediate materials, from China.  And, while in the examples above, there was good news, it’s imperative to understand all information declared to Customs must be complete, accurate and fully supported by the facts and law.  Importers, exporters and their supporting service providers must be wary of suggested tactics that sound too good to be true, because they probably are.  But, unless the entire trade team gets together to conduct a thorough review of your trade operations, your trade compliance and cost-effectiveness remain at risk.

Paul Vandevert founded OCHIM Trade Law in 2018, after serving for more than 23 years as in-house trade counsel at Ford and GM.  OCHIM Trade Law’s mission is to apply Paul’s 30+ years of knowledge and experience in all aspects of international trade and Customs law to deliver practical, strategic solutions to importing and exporting firms of all sizes. He can be reached at 313-737-3675 or 

DANGEROUS GOODS CORNER – Communication is a Primary Concern

By Sonia Irusta
Bureau of Dangerous Goods, Ltd.

On previous occasions through the Quick Caller Newsletter we have written on the importance of preparing packages and filling out the shipping papers – declaration. However, hazmat employees must do more than just these two steps to properly communicate the contents and dangers of a hazmat package. In this article, we will focus on another crucial aspect of the identification of packages containing hazardous materials: marks and labels.

What are Marks and Labels?

“Marks and labels” refer to a set of specific requirements designed to visually communicate the hazardous nature of a package’s contents. That way, anyone involved in the shipping process will know, on sight alone, not to treat them as they would with any conventional package. Their function is similar to shipping papers in that they provide details on the materials being shipped. However, unlike shipping papers, they are displayed directly onto the package itself.

Marks and labels must be on the outside of the package naturally and in a specific location. They must be visible, which may require a background of contrasting color, or a solid or dotted line serving as an outer boundary. They must also be durable, weather-resistant, and easily legible. Their size, color, and design must comply with specifications found in 49 CFR, IATA, and IMDG regulations. Shippers are responsible for applying the correct marks and labels and verifying that they meet all these requirements.

Different Types of Marks and Labels

There are several different kinds of marks and labels used for the identification of hazardous materials within packages. Some or all may be required depending on the material being transported. It is up to the shipper to know which ones need to be used and to verify that the pertinent marks and labels have been applied.

For starters, packages must display the correct UN specification marks when applicable. This shows that the packaging itself has been approved by the United Nations and meets the standards of the UN Model Regulations. The packaging manufacturer usually applies these after successful testing. However, shippers must still make sure they are correct and compliant with regulations regarding size, location, and specification.

Package use marks convey information for identifying the material itself. There are four basic kinds:

  • The material’s proper shipping name
  • The material’s UN/ID number
  • The full name and address of the shipper
  • The full name and address of the consignee

Hazard labels display the hazard class or division number to which the material belongs. A package must include the primary hazard label and, when required, subsidiary hazard labels.

Handling labels are not required for all dangerous goods, and shippers must know when to use them. While all hazmat packages must be handled more carefully than others, some require more specific treatment. These labels give further safety precautions per the regulations.

Receive Training in Identifying Hazmat Packages

Remember that as with any other part of the shipping process, the ultimate purpose for marking and labeling is to prevent a hazardous materials incident. Hazmat employees and shippers have a duty to follow the relevant regulations and maintain a safe environment for anyone involved in the shipping process. Marks and labels may seem like simple visuals. However, by virtue of that simplicity and presentation, they strongly and quickly communicate the most important details of hazmat packages. They cannot be neglected.

Of course, the task of applying and verifying marks and labels should only be left to trained hazmat employees.

Sonia Irusta is a highly accomplished business and technical professional instrumental in domestic and international transportation solutions for shippers, freight forwarders and carriers. She can be reached at Bureau of Dangerous Goods (609) 860.0300 Ext. 327 or via E-mail