Holds, Penalties, and Communication: ISF with Noah Munoz Part III

“You need to know who your cargo is being shipped with, an exceptional freight forwarder, for they are responsible for communicating with Customs.” –Noah Munoz

While the FDA monitors the quality of food and drug products entering the U.S., Customs sees imports first from a security standpoint, then as commerce. In order to monitor what comes into the U.S., Customs has implemented ISF, known as 10+2. ISF is an electronic notification sent to Customs, before ships leave foreign ports, notifying them of a shipment destined for U.S. ports. Published late in 2008, the law began implementation at the beginning of 2009, allowing importers time to get used to paperwork involved before the law came into full effect in 2010. There are pretty steep fines ($5,000/penalty), for not dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s.” Noah Munoz, of Platinum Cargo Logistics, has presented on the new regulation and comments on where we are today.

Munoz noted that while the $5,000 per violation scare tactic worked to get importers and companies to start filing paperwork, there are still mistakes being made. So in 2009 you filed your ISFs and you got an e-mail or a notification with a subject line saying that “Your ISF was accepted.” Ok, great, done deal, right? So why are you still running into problems now? Well, see past the subject line or the first paragraph of your “acceptance letter” (during the phase in period of 2009) and  there were a few details you may have missed as in corrections. While in 2009 Customs acknowledged your attempt at implementing the regulation…well now it’s crunch time and the consequences are real, not just mere e-mails or notifications, but $5,000 per penalty real.

While Customs has yet to collect penalties, according to Munoz, they seem to be taking a leaf out of FDA’s book, and have started conducting exams. These non-intrusive exams, use a gamma ray imaging system, VACIS, to examine cargo through radiographic images. Munoz noted that “exams have increased on a whole by 4% in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles”. It appears that a lot of these exams occur with smaller shipments in consolidated containers where “it only takes one” non properly filed ISF for the whole container to be detained and incur the fee shared by all. Platinum clients need not worry, Munoz affirms: “We [at Platinum Cargo Logistics]  have taken the initiative to ensure that our clients have been in full compliance.” Unlike the FDA, Customs actually looks at an importer’s history and is now examining those who do not correctly file ISFs. Customs, more transparent than the FDA, is pretty clear about their intentions and corrections concerning ISFs. Munoz summarizes it like this: “If it’s not perfect, there’s no ISF on file, if it’s not on file, expect a hold.”

At the end of the day, we, the consumers, pay the fees not the importers or the companies. Prices are on the rise, so why are we taxing ourselves?

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