Changes to GSP Eligibility

Results of a GSP review have just been published as Presidential Proclamation 9813. This announcement lists changes to select products and countries. The GSP status of these identified articles is effective for goods entering on/after November 1, 2018.

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AMS Plans Cotton Fee Increase

The Agricultural Marketing Service has released a statement announcing that it plans to raise the “cotton fee” applied to imported cotton goods from $0.011510 to $0.011905 per kilogram. Adjustments to the fee occur regularly to ensure that assessments collected on imported cotton match those paid on domestically produced cotton.

The announcement stipulates that the new rule will take effect October 16th, 2018, barring significant adverse feedback between now and September 17th.

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CBP Strengthens Penalties on Wood Packaging Material Violations

Peter Stern, Express Trade Capital

Harmful invasive pests and pathogens are found in the solid wood packing material (SWPM) that accompanies shipments in international trade. Wooden pallets, crating, and dunnage can harbor environmentally and economically harmful species that use the wood as host material, feed upon it, or hitch a ride on it and then threaten domestic timber. Outbreaks of the Asian long-horned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky), pine shoot beetle, Tomicus piniperda (L.), and the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis (Fairmaire), have been traced to importations of SWPM. Coping with the risks associated with the introduction of these pests via SWPM has become an increasingly important issue with the expansion of international trade.

For over a dozen years now, regulations have been in place that require treatment and marking of non-exempt wood packing material (WPM) imported into the United States. CBP recently issued a notice that effective November 1, 2017 penalties will be issued for violations of the wood packaging material regulations. The full notice with a link to detailed regulatory requirements can be found at CSMS# 17-000609 – ISSUANCE OF WOOD PACKAGING MATERIAL PENALTY. Importers are encouraged to understand these regulations and monitor compliance.

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CBP 201: Products to Watch Out For

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

A galaxy of constantly changing regulations governs the complex world of US imports. In our previous article on this subject, we focused on agricultural and licensed products. This time, we focus on some of the primary regulatory requirements imposed on other varieties of goods.

Medications/Medical Equipment

Prescription drugs, and even certain non-prescription drugs, are strictly regulated in the US, so much so that imported medications and medical equipment must be declared and permitted by CBP and the FDA ahead of shipment. Adding to the difficulty of regulatory compliance, international laws regarding medical supplements and equipment change quickly and often, which requires importers to stay vigilant and nimble.

Paperwork is paramount. For example, drug paraphernalia imports are illegal in the US unless intended for “authentic medical conditions.” If you import goods classified as drug paraphernalia, it is safest to include as much documentation as possible to specify and confirm the intended use of the items in question, including medical records if possible. Thorough documentation should, in theory, help your goods move more quickly, but you should always build in extra time in case CBP flags your shipment for inspection.


Depending on your level of experience in the automotive industry, you may have trouble auditing your automobile imports since regulations are more technical than those for most other products.

First and foremost, any automobiles imported into the US must adhere to the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel-emission requirements, unless the vehicle was manufactured before a designated date. Gasoline-fueled cars or light-duty trucks, for example, must adhere to federal emission standards unless they were manufactured before January 1st, 1968.

Furthermore, if the vehicle has ever been driven outside the US, its undercarriage must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any foreign soil or dangerous pests. CBP indicates that you must have the car steam-sprayed or thoroughly cleaned by other means prior to shipment to prevent ecological damage.

There are also specific documentary requirements for automobile imports including EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7. Depending on the vehicle’s size, vintage, and fuel efficiency, there may be more. As always, do your research or hire a customs broker if you aren’t confident in your compliance.

Ceramic Home Goods

Although items like ceramic tableware and other home goods are not restricted per se, some ceramic goods from outside the US contain dangerous levels of lead in their glaze. These products are ultimately unsafe because the lead can seep into food and beverages served on or in them. Therefore, when importing ceramics, the primary concern is lead concentration.

CBP recommends testing the lead content in imported ceramics to avoid distribution of harmful goods. Since a lot of countries do not have strict legal guidelines for vessels intended to handle food, foreign government agencies will often skip this step. Thus, it is up to the ceramics importer to obtain satisfactory inspections and documentation.

If you must import and distribute ceramics that are not safe for food or drink, or you cannot ensure quality control or compliance, you must provide clear instructions to use those ceramics for decorative purposes only when you distribute them to avoid endangering customers and possible litigation.

Cultural Artifacts

One of the more prevalent challenges in importing is monitoring your supply chain. If your goods come from a foreign country, and you aren’t familiar with your supplier’s practices, you could find yourself in possession of, and liable for, stolen cultural artifacts. The best way to avoid this is to know with whom you are doing business and remain extra cautious in countries that are home to frequent artifact smuggling. As always, obtaining thorough documentation is key to avoiding confrontations with the CBP and other government agencies with jurisdiction over the matter.


While alcohol imports are generally legal in the US, one must acquire a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau before importing alcohol for sale. It is also important to note that most alcohol regulations differ between states. Thus, there are limits on the quantity of alcohol one can bring into certain states. Importers must always thoroughly research the regulations of state into which they plan to import alcohol and acquire any additional permits.

It is important to note that absinthe and any comparable spirits fall under stricter regulations. If you import absinthe, you need full details on the brand you plan to purchase and its packaging. Bottles labeled with the word “absinthe” or printed with images implying psychotropic effects may not be imported into the US. The product must also contain less than 10 parts per million of thujone due to its potentially dangerous effects.

These are just a few of CBP’s regulatory requirements and restrictions. CBP’s numerous regulations cover virtually all commercially traded goods. Before importing goods, educate yourself thoroughly, or, hire a competent customs broker to guide you through the process and to ensure that your goods are never delayed or detained due to lack of compliance.

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Lack of Insurance adds to Hanjin’s Woes

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The latest issue in the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy scandal surrounds a lack of insurance on chassis in the US.

Chassis provider Flexi-Van Leasing has requested assistance from a federal judge to cancel all its per-diem leasing agreements with Hanjin. Flexi fears that Hanjin will send “thousands” of chassis onto US highways without proper insurance coverage.

Ever since Hanjin’s filing for protection in a Korean bankruptcy court on August 31st, significant controversy has surrounded the fate of goods, containers, and ships under the Korean shipper’s jurisdiction. Formerly the seventh-largest container shipping company in the world, Hanjin’s losses dramatically affected the international shipping and trade industries.

Flexi-Van Leasing, a New Jersey-based provider filed the motion in US District Bankruptcy Court. The claim is that Hanjin’s insurance ceased on October 10th when the shipper failed to pay its premium. Flexi-Van says that when Hanjin failed to pay its premium, thousands of uninsured chassis in Hanjin’s possession. Hanjin has suspended all deliveries except to ports, but can resume deliveries at any time, according to Flexi-Van’s filing.

The current state of affairs relating to Hanjin is concerning US creditors and customers, understandably, but the Newark court is attempting to resolve some of them. Hanjin is seeking Chapter 15 status in the US, which would allow the shipper to move forward with bankruptcy domestically.

Although the court has yet to rule on Hanjin’s Chapter 15 status, it has on many of the other issues surrounding the shipper’s recent difficulties. Keeping up has proven a challenge as the court addresses dozens of attorneys working for numerous involved parties. Cargo owners, container companies, logistics providers and terminals are just some of those approaching the court for assistance.

In the last month, the court has already determined next steps for Hanjin and its customers. The court has instructed shippers in securing release of their cargo, told Hanjin what to do in order to deliver goods to their destinations, and decided what happens to the containers and chassis after the goods have been delivered. Customers of Hanjin continue to raise issues, mostly relating to damages incurred and payments made to Hanjin.

Flexi-Van claims that Hanjin owes them $3 million for services provided prior to the bankruptcy filing and held several contracts with the shipper, all requiring insurance coverage. Flexi-Van has requested a termination of their agreements with Hanjin, as well as payment for their insurance premium. In theory, this will allow delivery of all goods to move forward as originally planned.

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Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Strikes Exporters

Exports to Australia: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) SeasonBrown Marmorated Stink Bug, pictured here from Penn State's Department of Entomology

Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has developed measures to manage the 2016-17 brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) season. In addition to standard import requirements, these measures affect ocean FCL & break-bulk shipments of targeted tariffs imported from the United States between 1 September 2016 and 30 April 2017. A complete list of the exact commodities subject to these measures can be found here. The department considers goods transported on flat rack containers to be break bulk cargo. LCL shipments are excluded.

Break bulk goods treated for BMSB before December 1, 2016 must undergo treatment within 96 hours of loading. Containerized goods sealed after treatment and arriving with seals intact are not subject to a treatment window. Break bulk goods treated on or after December 1, 2016 are unlikely to become re-infested, so are not subject to a treatment window. Commodities manufactured after December 1, 2016 are exempt, as long as they are accompanied with a Not Field Tested (NUFT) Declaration that includes the Date & Place of Manufacture. A good is only considered to be newly manufactured after 1 December 2016 if all of its large, complex components have also been manufactured after 1 December.

Treatment Certificates must identify the Cargo Treated & include a unique identifiable link to the consignment, specify the date, type & timeframe of treatment and include a plastic wrap declaration. Australia’s Document Requirement Policy is available here.

If you’re concerned that your warehouse or home is already victim to stink bugs, click here for preventative measures and remedies!

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Definition of Importer Security Filing Importer

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Definition of Importer Security Filing Importer

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register regarding the definition of the Importer Security Filing (ISF) Importer. The proposed rule would broaden the definition of the Importer for certain types of ISFs filed, for example foreign cargo remaining on board (FROB), IE, TE and FTZ admissions.

Comments must be received on or before September 6, 2016.

Additional details can be found at the Federal Register here.

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Gibraltar Port Gains Edge

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The Honorable Albert Isola, Gibraltar’s Minister for Shipping, hosted a working breakfast at Gibraltar House in London recently to draw attention to the ongoing work being done to make Gibraltar a more attractive port to international clients. The gathering was held in honor of London International Shipping Week and included discussions on the port’s new cargo handling facilities, on-site towage companies, and added cruise accommodations.

The Gibraltar Ship Register, a member of the Category I Red Ensign Group of the United Kingdom and United Kingdom dependency registers, represents nearly every type of commercial vessel. The port, constructed in 2005, is strategically situated to take advantage of Mediterranean transit.

“It is hugely helpful to have face to face and open communication with our major suppliers and to work through directly with them [to] improve the Gibraltar proposition, for the benefit of all those who work with and service clients of the port,” said Isola.

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Peak Season for Asia-Europe Trade Falls Short

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Q3, often the most profitable season for the Asia-Europe trade lane, has been decidedly lackluster thus far. Analysts largely attribute the decline to the recent Russian economic downturn.  Merchandise for the winter holiday season typically begins to ship now as retailers and carriers alike in Europe and the US prepare for their busiest time of the year.

In anticipation of the holiday uptick and subsequent overcapacity, Asia-Europe carriers often use intentionally cancelled sailings within a journey, also referred to as void or blank sailings, to increase freight rates and avoid exceeding capacity.  In other words, a carrier will cancel certain legs of a journey opting for the most direct route to its destination.  Such route reductions are being applied more permanently to compensate for the significant decrease in activity this holiday season.

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Warehouse Explosion in Port of Tianjin Results in Shipping Disruptions


A warehouse containing hazardous chemicals in the Port of Tianjin, China exploded causing significant disruptions to onshore operations. Shipping traffic carrying hazardous products into the port has been halted and operations at two container terminals have been suspended. Port operations, however, are normal for Northern China’s largest port and main maritime gateway to Beijing.

We will provide updates in the event that further port disruptions unfold.