How to Import for a Trade Show in the U.S. or Canada

Trade Show Imports Stand

Are you attending a trade show across the border? This post will teach you what you need to know about Trade Show Imports into the U.S. or Canada.

Trade Show Imports: Saul Better Call Us

Saul was going to display his super duper machine at a trade show in Houston, Texas. His machine was bound to be a disruptor in the market and he was excited to show it off. Saul booked his booth, made his travel plans and hooked his machine to the back of his pick up, threw his promotional material in his suitcase and headed for the border.

What Saul did not know was he had to take certain steps before he made his way out of Canada and into the U.S.

  1. He did not realize that the window cleaner and paper towel he would use to clean his display booth each night is considered a consumable item and would need a declaration for the portion used while he was in the U.S.
  2. Saul did not know that the promotional material he would distribute at the event would need a consumption entry
  3. He did not understand that the super duper machine would need a bond to avoid paying the entire amount of duties and taxes.


Needless to say, Saul was late to his trade show and he had a few more expenses (in the form of penalties) that he did not account for in his budget.

With 2018 freshly upon us you might have the same opportunity ahead. A trade show could likely be on your horizon. If you are asking the question “how can I get my trade show goods across the border?” first off, kudos to you for researching. Secondly, hooray, you have come to the right place.

In this blog you will find a practical checklist to help you prepare for an international trade show. As well as, what you will need to know to import your trade goods into the U.S. or Canada.

Trade Show Imports Checklist (7)

(1) Take Inventory

Make a list of what you want to bring to the show and split the list into two sections.

Section One

Section one will include everything you want to leave behind. Anything you would use, consume, giveaway or sell while in the country.

Section Two

The second section will include everything you will bring home.

(2) Remove Purchasable Products

If you have an item that will be used or consumed in the visiting country, a simple option is to buy the product once you arrive rather than import them. A good example would be cleaning supplies. Even something as simple as glass cleaner could provide a hold-up at customs. Purchasing supplies in the country you are visiting will eliminate risks when clearing customs.

(3) Are the Goods Eligible?

Check with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Participating Government Agency, or your Customs Broker to see if there are any restrictions on the goods you are wanting to take to the show.

(4) Marking, Quantity & Packaging

All samples must meet marking regulations, and they must be within the country’s quantity and packaging requirements. Otherwise your goods could experience delays or be seized at customs.

(5) Entry Type

Find out from your customs broker what is the best type of entry to use for your goods. A Customs Broker will be able to help with your timeline requirements and potentially reduce your costs at customs.

(6) Letter of Recognition

The International Events and Convention Services Program (IECSP) was developed to encourage businesses and organizations to hold trade shows, conventions, events and exhibitions in Canada. They provide guidance and information to facilitate event participants, foreign exhibitors, and temporary imported goods and materials, into and out of Canada.

CBSA offers the IECSP in order for you to have one primary contact to provide you with federal government services and requirements associated with international events and conventions taking place in Canada.

The event organizer will often work alongside the IECSP’s Regional Coordinator to ensure all parties are prepared for customs entry. Once CBSA recognizes the event, they will provide a letter of recognition to the event organizers, the customs broker or designated event representatives.

The letter will contain:

  • The name and type of event
  • The date and location of the event
  • The expected number of participants
  • Who is responsible for processing any CBSA documents
    • Event Organizer
    • Customs Broker
    • Delegated Representative
  • Goods brought into Canada, their origin and intended use
  • Controlled goods being imported
  • Goods that will be sold or given away
  • If applicable, a note requesting the event be considered for Border to Show Service
  • What goods can possibly enter duty free and/or receive partial relief from GST/HST

It is important for you to get a copy of the letter of recognition to ensure your entry process at the border is smooth.

(7) Time Limits

Some imports must be exported within a certain time frame. Take note of the entry date to make sure you do not go past expiry. For instance, the IECSP requires 15-30 business days notice in order to help you prepare for the customs clearance. If the request is made with less than 15 business days it is up to the IECSP’s Regional Coordinator to decide whether or not to provide a letter of recognition.


Trade Show Importing into the U.S.

Is Your Import Duty Free?

Souvenirs, branded paraphernalia and advertising materials are eligible to be duty free if they can be applied to a Free Trade Agreement. Office machines and equipment can be duty free if they enter under a Temporary Import Bond (TIB). For commercial samples and apparel samples, they can enter the country duty free if their value is less than $1.00 USD. For anything over $1.00 USD, to be considered duty free, customs must modify the goods to the point where they are unsuitable for resale. This is done by marking, tearing, perforating, gluing, or otherwise altering the goods.

Is a Merchandise Processing Fee Applied?

All of your imports require a merchandise processing fee unless they are under a Free Trade Agreement. Unsure of what a Merchandise process Fee is? Check out our Blog Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) Explained.

Your Recommended Entry

Consumption entries are recommended for souvenirs, branded paraphernalia, advertising material, and commercial/apparel samples. For office machines and equipment where the duty is above $100.00 USD you would be best suited to import under a Temporary Import Bond. Keep in mind Temporary Import Bond items must be exported within 12 months of entry.

Errors You Will Most Often See

In speaking with our U.S. release Operations Manager, Breanna Leininger, she described the most common errors you will see when you try to import items for a trade show into the U.S.:

“The most common errors we see are in packaging and invoicing.  When looking to import goods into the U.S. for a tradeshow it is vitally important to package and invoice consumables such as giveaways separate from the trade show booth. This will prove to be helpful if you are flagged for inspection, as well as open you up to entry filing options that will save you time, money, and a headache.”

Note: We recommend getting items you could buy from a store, such as cleaning supplies, in the country your trade show is in. Items purchased in a store can require additional statements and manufacturing information you may not have access to when purchasing from a store.

Trade Show Imports U.S.




Trade Show Importing into Canada

Is Your Import Duty Free?

Souvenirs are duty free if a Free Trade Agreement can be applied. Branded paraphernalia is duty free as long as it is exported back with you. Office machines and equipment, as well as, display goods are duty free if they are exported within 18 months. For advertising materials, most paper goods are conditionally duty free, any other materials must be applicable to a Free Trade Agreement. Finally, commercial samples and apparel samples are duty free.

Is Your Import GST Exempt?

Souvenirs and advertising materials are not exempt. Branded paraphernalia is exempt if it is exported. Office machines and equipment are GST exempt. Commercial samples and apparel samples are GST exempt if only one of each is displayed or if the samples are clearly not for resale. Finally, display goods are exempt as long as they are exported within 6 months.

Your Recommended Entry

Souvenirs and advertising materials intended for sale or consumption in Canada must be accounted for on a B3. Any branded paraphernalia left in Canada must also be accounted for on a B3. E29Bs are required for returning branded paraphernalia, office machines and equipment, as well as, display goods.

Errors You Will Most Often See

In speaking with our Canadian release Operations Manager, Cherie Storms, she described the most common errors you will see when you try to import items for a trade show into Canada:

“Forgetting to ask the event organizer if the event has been approved by CBSA, and if so, travelling with the approval letter which supports the purpose of entry. Also, bringing in consumables that will not be returned, forgetting that there may be duties and taxes on those”.

Trade Show Imports Canada




Why You Should Declare Your Trade Show Imports

Not declaring items intended for business purposes is illegal. Customs can make samples useless for resale and your goods could even be seized or destroyed. Keep in mind not being prepared at customs can delay your journey. Being forced to complete all of the paperwork at the port of entry can be a huge headache and time consuming. Knowing before you go will make your trade show experience pain-free.

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What is the Value for Duty on Rescue Puppies: A Customs Valuation Case Study

Customs Valuation on Rescue DogsWhat is the value of a rescue puppy? What a silly question… man’s best friend is invaluable! Those cute bundles of happiness that greet you each day with a wagging tail and eagerness to go outside are a part of our family. However invaluable our four-legged companions may be to us, Customs needs a Customs valuation also known as value for duty (VFD) placed on them when importing into Canada. Therefore in this blog, we will take a closer look at a recent import we completed on some rescue dogs from Idaho.


Nothing is free in the eyes of Customs. To determine the value of seemingly free, invaluable or complimentary items, you must use one of the 6 Methods of Determining Customs Valuation.  This blog post explained the methods must be ruled out, one-by-one, beginning with transaction value.


What are the 6 Methods of Valuation?

The six methods are:


  1. Transaction Value: The value for duty is based on the price paid or payable
  2. Transaction Value of Identical Goods: The value for duty an established value for duty of identical goods
  3. Transaction Value of Similar Goods:The value for duty an established value for duty of similar goods
  4. Deductive Method: The value for duty on the most common selling price (per unit) of the goods sold to Canadian Consumers
  5. Computed Method: The value for duty is the cost of production, profit, and general expenses
  6. Residual Method: Used when none of the above will do


How to Value Free Goods

When we received the call from our client who was wanting to import a family of dogs from a U.S. shelter that could no longer keep them, we rose to the challenge. We were under a time limit to determine the value for duty as the shelter in Idaho was running out of space.


As previously mentioned, with items like samples, replacements, warranty items, short-shipped goods, importers are required to declare a fair market value, even if in the end payment of duties and taxes may be unnecessary. But was the value for rescue puppies the same?


In the case of the puppies, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has a specific D-Memorandum on how to come to a correct value for duty.


Transaction Value Method

It states that the Transaction Value method should be used. Now, you may wonder, ‘how can it be used when there is no transaction taking place?’, Well, there is. CBSA states that:


“Where goods are sold for export to Canada, to a purchaser in Canada, and the price paid or payable (PPP) of the goods can be determined, the transaction value method is to be used to determine the VFD. The PPP is defined as all of the payments made or to be made by the purchaser to or for the benefit of the vendor.”


Some of those payments would be:


  • Adoption fee(s)
  • Veterinary charges
  • Foreign permits
  • Any other costs associated with exporting the animal from the U.S.
  • Permits acquired in Canada
  • Veterinary charges paid in Canada


Transaction Value of Identical or Similar Goods Method

If any of the above costs were not incurred, CBSA states that :


“If no money is paid by the importer to acquire the rescue animal, the VFD must be determined using an alternate valuation method. No VFD shall be determined by arbitrary or fictitious amounts.”


In looking at our 6 Methods of valuation, and knowing that they must be ruled out one-by-one, starting with Transaction Value, if Transaction Value cannot be used, the next option must be Transaction Value for Identical then Similar goods.


For example, if after this import, our client wanted to import another rescue dog from the same shelter in Idaho, of an identical breed and similar age, but no PPP was in place, the VFD should be the same VFD used in the previous import.


Deductive Method

If there is no identical or similar established value for duty,  move down the list to Deductive method.

In this method, you would find an established selling price in Canada for the same breed and similar aged dog. They would then use that figure less the profit earned and costs associated with importing the animal (veterinary costs, permits, etc.) to establish a value for duty.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Determining Value for Duty

The above methodology can be applied to many seemingly ‘free goods’. When looking to import them into Canada, we suggest you ask yourself the following questions. They will help to determine which method you should use:


  • Will you be selling the goods to a buyer for a price?
  • If you are not selling the goods, is there a selling price established on an identical or similar item?
  • If you are not selling the goods, and there is no established value for identical or similar goods you’ve previously imported or sold, is there an established selling price within Canada for the same goods?
  • If you are not selling the goods, and there is no established value for identical or similar goods, and established selling price within Canada by another vendor for the same goods, was there a cost to making the item?


In this case, the rescue puppies and mom were imported using the Transaction Value Method. The adoption fees, veterinary charges, and permits were added up to establish the value for duty. They have since been adopted and are happy and healthy new additions to Canada.


For more information on determining value for duty  or for assistance in Customs valuation, leave us a comment below. We are happy to help.






Returning Online Goods? You are Eligible for a Refund from CBSA

Canadian Cash

We have all purchased casual goods that just don’t work out. Sometimes grandpa does not want a new phone. Sometimes those new pants are just a wee bit too tight. Regardless of the purchase, we all make returns and we all want refunds.

The good news is when you return your goods that have been imported into Canada you are able to apply for a refund of the Canadian duties and taxes paid on the original purchase. You can apply with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and their Casual Refund Program.

What is the Casual Refund Program?

The Casual Refund Program manages the refund and adjustment process for the duty and taxes paid on non-commercial goods hand carried, mailed and couriered into Canada. The program allows for the refund of duties and taxes if:

  1. The goods were in fact returned to the sender.
  2. There is proof the imported goods had duty and taxes.

How do I get a Refund?

CBSA has Casual Refund Centres (CRC) located throughout Canada. The centres are responsible for the receipt, review and processing of all casual requests.

If you wish to request a refund on duties and taxes paid to CBSA on non-commercial imports, you are required to submit a B2G Form. The CBSA provides you with detailed instructions on how to fill out the form, as well as the addresses where the form can be mailed to.

Keep in mind the CRC will not consider a casual refund request if the amount of duties and taxes is less than $2.00 CAD.

You can authorize a third party, such as a customs broker, to submit the request. However, you must provide a signed letter authorizing the third party to act as an agent on your behalf. Don’t fret, only the person who paid the duties and taxes is entitled to a refund.

What Else do I Need to Provide?

Along with the B2G Form, you must provide supporting documentation. The original accounting document showing the duties and taxes paid at the time of the importation must be attached. The accounting document will be dependent upon the method of importation.

For Hand Carried Goods:

  • CBSA will provide you with a BSF715 Form titled “Casual Goods Accounting Document”

For Mailed Goods:

  • Attached to your parcel will be an E14 Form where you can account for all of the duties and taxes

For Goods Delivered by Courier:

  • If the goods arrived via a courier company then you were provided a courier receipt that includes a CBSA B3 transaction number from the courier.

Regardless of how you received the goods, one of these accounting documents must be attached to the B2G Form to ensure you paid duties and taxes.

Also, you have to provide proof that the goods were returned to the U.S. seller. Proof can be provided by the seller through a credit note or bill of lading. This will provide CBSA proof the goods were exported and the date of the export.

When Must I Apply for the Refund?

It is important to know your request must be made within one year.

The CRC will strive to process casual refund requests within 30 business days of receipt of your B2G Form and the supporting documentation. If the CRC does not provide a refund by the 91st day, interest will be granted at the prescribed rate for the period up to the day the refund is granted.

During your next online shopping adventure remember you can get refunded on the duty. For more information on the processing of a potential claim you can contact us at Pacific Customs Brokers or refer to the CBSA Memorandum D6-2-6.


You Could be Unnecessarily Paying More for Your Online Purchase

Sally’s Dilemma

Sally was shopping online when she found a deal she couldn’t pass up. For years her husband Rob wanted to get a brand new flat screen TV but the answer was always “soon.” It wasn’t in their budget and the one they already had worked just fine. However, Sally stumbled upon a deal on a 64” flat screen that usually cost $1,700 USD but was on sale for $1,200 USD. This was way cheaper than the equivalent in Canada currently selling for $2,000 CAD.

With a tap of her finger, Sally made the purchase. The price she paid included shipping to their home by the courier the seller selected. The price did not include custom brokerage service to get it across the border, or possible duties/taxes. This would be an additional collect on delivery (C.O.D.) charge Sally would need to pay to the courier upon delivery.

Sally was glad a courier was on the job since they were known for their speedy delivery. She wanted it to arrive before Christmas so she could surprise Rob with his new gift. However the real surprise was when the TV arrived at her door the courier’s brokerage fees were much higher than she expected… 25% higher to be exact. The gift she thought was going to cost her $1,200 USD ended up costing her $1,500 USD since the seller specified the courier was to C.O.D. from the buyer. Sally was caught off guard by the extra costs. She had to make the tough decision of paying the extra $300 USD she was unaware of, or risk not having a gift for her husband Rob. Sally decided to pay the fees…. but you have another option.

Do I Have to Use the Seller’s Selected Courier for Both Shipping and Customs Brokerage?

No. You can make the declaration yourself directly with your local CBSA office.

How Can I Self-Clear My Casual Goods?

In order to self-clear your goods and alleviate the customs release charges of a courier shipment you must inform the courier company you want to clear the shipment yourself. They will be able to provide you with the different options available.

You will make your way to your local CBSA office and provide them with the:

  • Courier company name
  • Unique shipment identifier number
  • Description of the goods
  • Value of the goods

Most, if not all, of this information will be on the shipment invoice which can be provided to you by the courier company.

In the event that the courier company doesn’t get this message, and the shipment arrives at your door, you can refuse the delivery and remind the courier company you have opted to self-clear directly with CBSA. The goods will be temporarily returned to the courier’s warehouse. It is important to know how long your goods will be kept at the courier’s warehouse since you will want to pick up your shipment before the goods are returned to your seller. A word of caution, that sending the goods back to the warehouse can lead to confusion on where your package is being held.

Once you have settled up the duties and taxes with CBSA you will be provided with an official receipt. You will then bring the receipt provided by CBSA to the courier’s warehouse and they will provide you with your casual goods.

Plan Ahead and Save the Surprises

Like most of our stories, the moral here is ‘know before you go.’ Knowing that you have the option to self clear may make your next online purchase even more desirable. Although self clearing casual goods with CBSA can be time consuming, it can save you $100’s of dollars in service charges.




The Issues and Solutions of Container Exams at the Port of Vancouver

Container Exams at the Port of Vancouver

Importers like you are frustrated with the lengthy delays and subsequent costs of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) container exams moving through Canadian Ports, especially in the Port of Vancouver. Let us take a closer look at the cause, reasons for extended delays, and the associated fees with the current CBSA Vancouver container exam program.

Why the Trade Community is Frustrated With Container Exams in Vancouver

According to the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) and the container examination cost survey they conducted, delays of up to four weeks were experienced in the Port of Vancouver compared to three to five days in the Port of Montreal.  Their blog post entitled “Container Examinations Out of Control” reported that their members have experienced the following with the current container exam process at the Port of Vancouver:

  • Six to seven week delays in receiving their goods
  • Thousands of dollars in unexpected costs for container exams, storage, detention, per diem and demurrage charges
  • Lost sales as a result of the delays
  • Lost goods in the case of perishables

CIFFA estimates that invoices for examination, demurrage, and storage of containers can range up to $4,000 per container. Those fees add up to millions of dollars, which are inevitably passed on to the consumer.

CIFFA argues that there is no incentive to improve inspection efficiency because container terminal operators charge daily per container storage fees of $150 or more, and shipping lines bill shippers and freight forwarders for demurrage.

Importers bear all the direct costs incurred for the exams. Importers are also responsible for all indirect costs resulting from exams such as damages or losses during the exam, lost sales, production and/or contract penalties due to delivery delays. Another cause of frustration is the unnecessary confusion an importer is faced with when the demurrage, detention, and per diem terms are often and incorrectly used interchangeably on invoices.

Tip: Always clarify in advance what shipping delay charges you face.

Why is the Container Exam Process Longer at the Port of Vancouver?

The two main factors in the delays are the location of the exam facility and the volume of containers at the Port of Vancouver.

It is important to understand CBSA and the transportation industry agreed the best option for examining marine cargo containers for contraband was to use a specialized central examination facility.  With this centralized facility, CBSA officers can conduct efficient examinations using high tech equipment in a secure environment.  The current inspection facility for the Ports of Vancouver is located in Burnaby, a fair distance away from the ports.

More than 80% of global merchandise is transported across oceans as marine cargo, and over 95% of marine cargo imported into Canada comes through five major marine ports:

  • Vancouver
  • Prince Rupert
  • Montreal
  • Saint John
  • Halifax

The three largest Canadian container ports are the Port of Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Montreal. Together, they handled five million, twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in 2016. Around 50% of this freight comes through the Vancouver and Prince Rupert ports. The Port of Vancouver consists of 4 container terminals with an annual capacity of just under three million TEUs per year. The volume clearly shows the one CEF/MCEF in Burnaby is busy.

Who is Responsible for the Container Exam Delays in Vancouver?

The delays experienced in Vancouver are further compounded by an already lengthy process. To gain an understanding of where issues lie we need to take a quick look at the stakeholders and their general responsibilities and possible contribution to the issue.

The Current Container Examination Process

Regardless of the Port, the container exam steps are the same as detailed below.

  1. The marine carrier reports to CBSA with information on the vessel, the crew and the routing via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) at least 96 hours prior to arrival.
  2. The marine carrier sends cargo data via EDI to CBSA 24 hours prior to loading the cargo onto the vessel at the foreign port.
  3. Using the marine carrier’s information, CBSA performs a risk assessment at the CBSA National Targeting Centre in Ottawa.
  4. At the first Port of Arrival (POA) the vessel arrives and the containers are discharged, put through a radiation portal, and then stacked at the Terminal storage.
  5. Containers that are targeted or selected by CBSA for examination are staged for dockside exam, Mobile Large Scale Imaging or for furtherance to Container Examination Facilities (CEF) or Marine Container Examination Facilities (MCEF) for an intrusive examination.
  6. The containers, which require de-stuffing, are transported to the CEF/MCEF for fumigant testing, possible ventilation, assignment to an examination bay and offloaded and reloaded following an examination.
  7. Containers are authorized to move by CBSA from the CEF/MCEF back to the Terminal and released for transport to the Importer/Consignee.

CBSA Roles and Responsibilities

CBSA targets 1.3% of all containers for examination as it views containerized cargo as a huge risk.  Physical exams are done with the assistance of the Canada Port Authorities. They are legislated to provide facilities for CBSA inspection. These facilities are known as Container Examination Facilities (CEF) and Marine Container Examination Facilities (MCEF).

CBSA has a number of methods to examine Containers:

Container Examination Facilities (CEF) and Marine Container Examination Facilities (MCEF): Containers are moved from the marine port to the CEF or MCEF where they are fully de-stuffed, the contents intrusively examined, followed by an examination of the container itself.  CBSA has a service standard for examination, which states that CBSA will strive to conduct a marine container examination within 24 hours of the arrival of the container at the CEF or MCEF. This service standard does not include weekends or holidays. Additional time is required for fumigant testing and ventilation procedures in addition to container reloading times and containers that are resultant for contraband.

Note on fumigation: The CBSA requires testing of all marine containers for fumigants before examination. Fumigants include methyl bromide, phosphine and benzene. Fumigant testing identifies chemical levels prior to the execution of an in-depth examination. Chemical levels found to be above acceptable levels require that the container be ventilated in order to reduce the elevated chemical levels to a safe level. The maximum time that may be required to ventilate is three days. Once the contents and container can be safely examined,  the container is de-stuffed, examined, and then reloaded and returned to the port.

Large Scale Imaging (LSI) Examinations: LSI examinations are non-intrusive, dockside x-ray examinations of containers, enabling the CBSA officer to see inside the container. Anomalies deep within a container, such as contraband, can be detected, depending on the commodities density. A LSI examination can also assist in determining whether an intrusive examination is needed, and is especially useful in selective examinations.

Pier Examinations: This dockside examination is partially intrusive and involves the CBSA officer opening the container doors to perform visual inspections and a limited physical examination of the cargo closest to the door. The inspection may result in referral for an intrusive examination conducted at the container examination facility.

The CBSA is responsible only for the costs associated with their services, such as the officers examining the container and the equipment and tools required for marine container examinations. They do not bill the importer for these costs.

Goods found violating Canadian legislation may be subject to enforcement action such as a monetary penalty or seizure.

CEF/MCEF Warehouse Operators Roles and Responsibilities

CBSA informs the Warehouse Operator of the containers requiring exam and works with CBSA on priorities. The Warehouse Operator coordinates with the Highway Carriers to move the containers from the Terminal to the CEF/MCEF. They then coordinate and are responsible for the offloading and reloading of containers for presentation of cargo for exam. The warehouse operator is responsible for all truck movements at the CEF/MCEF such as moves to and from the ventilation area and examination bays.

The CEF Warehouse Operator generates the fees for presenting the goods for exam, to cover the cost of transportation to and from the examination facility and the unloading and reloading of the container. They then bill these costs to the shipping lines that in turn pass the cost on to the importer.  

Marine Carriers Roles and Responsibilities

The marine carrier is responsible to present the cargo for examination when requested by CBSA.

If CBSA requests a full container exam the marine carrier is responsible to:

  • Ensure the container is picked up from the terminal and transported to the CEF/MCEF
  • Monitor the pick-up of the container and the subsequent return of the container to the terminal after examination
  • Field any calls from the importer regarding any delays on their shipment

They must obtain any terminal charges for a dockside/tailgate and LSI exam completed at the Terminal.  If the CBSA container hold is removed after an exam the carrier then invoices the importer for the costs incurred at the Terminal. Once the importer pays the costs to the marine carrier the container will be released to the importer.

Marine Terminal Operators Roles and Responsibilities

After the Terminal Operator receives EDI data regarding the vessel and the cargo from the marine carrier they will:

  • ‘Arrive’ the cargo electronically to CBSA when the vessel arrives
  • Discharges the cargo from the vessel to the shipyard
  • Arranges for on-dock and off-dock examinations as requested by the CBSA
  • Permits containers to depart the terminal when released by the marine carrier and CBSA

Importer Roles and Responsibilities

The Importer orders goods for import and then organizes logistics or depends on third party links in the supply chain to facilitate the movement and subsequent entry of the import into Canada.

Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Roles and Responsibilities

Customs Brokers and/or Freight Forwarders directly represent Importers in the coordination or facilitation of the exam processes with the Terminal Operators, the Marine Carriers, Drayage Carriers and CBSA.

The Customs Broker and/or Freight Forwarders may be involved in the logistics and may pay charges on behalf of the importer as their client.  The Customs Broker and/or Freight Forwarder is generally aware that a hold has been placed on an Importer’s shipment for examination by CBSA.  Although not a responsibility, the Customs Broker and/or Freight Forwarder generally fields calls from the Importer regarding the status of the delays in the release of the container.

Highway Carriers Roles and Responsibilities

The Terminal Operator informs the Highway Carrier which containers need to be examined by CBSA. The Highway Carrier then makes a reservation for pick-up of the container at the Terminal with the Terminal Operator.

Reservations sometimes have to be made about three days in advance. The Highway Carrier then has a one-hour window around their reservation time to pick up the container at the Terminal and transport it to the CEF/MCEF for CBSA examination.

Once the examination is complete, the Highway Carrier returns the container to the Terminal. The container is then released by CBSA and can now be delivered to the Importer/Consignee by the Highway Carrier or the Drayage Company once a reservation has been made to pick the container up from the Terminal.

Stakeholder Summary

As each stakeholder carries out their responsibility, it results in more opportunities for delays. These can quickly add up to become lengthy delays.

Many of the stakeholders state there needs to be improved transparency and efficiency in the inspection process by ALL parties. CIFFA urges CBSA to address both the pricing model and the regulatory framework of the shipping lines, terminal operators, and warehouse operators surrounding container examinations across the country.

CBSA’s Action to Improve Ocean Trade

The CBSA has made a commitment in their 2017/18 departmental plan “to work with industry partners and the Port Authority in Vancouver to advance the Marine Container Examination Facility (MCEF) project over the course of the year. The opening of a new MCEF will increase the Agency’s examination capacity and enhance the facilitation of legitimate trade.”

The CBSA held a one-day conference with all stakeholders in Vancouver in September of 2017. The conference identified a number of opportunities for improvement.  Some areas of improvement included the communication between all stakeholders regarding delays, service hours, and service standards including:

  • Shipping lines, Terminal Operators and Warehouse Operators must post standard fees associated with the movement and facilitation of freight through the marine process.
  • Terminal Operators need to improve the reservation system for pickup and return of CBSA examined or targeted containers. CBSA needs to provide proof of examination, LSI exam and ventilation timelines to stakeholders.
  • There needs to be a transparent dispute resolution between all stakeholders. Use of technology for real-time status and progress of the exam providing importers and their service providers’ insight to better plan and mitigate impacts of the exam to their business and supply chains.
  • Importers need the flexibility and the option to deliver direct from the exam site.
  • CBSA needs to identify opportunities to improve efficiencies and consistencies with their targeting and examination of container freight. A clear focus on the client is necessary which is transparent with defined and measurable service standards.

Steps To Improve The CBSA Marine Container Exam Program

CBSA argues that numerous factors complicate the issue, and terminal/warehouse operators are only one part. CBSA states it is working with the Port of Vancouver, terminal operators, and other industry stakeholders to improve the system’s efficiency.

This initiative includes the construction of a new federal government container examination facility (MCEF) on Tsawwassen First Nation land which is strategically adjacent to the Port of Vancouver’s Deltaport and the new Delta iPort container logistics center.

A New MCEF in Tsawwassen

A new MCEF in Tsawwassen (TCEF) will augment the severely constrained facility in Burnaby and will initiate the new CBSA marine container examination program focusing on technology (scans) and less on manual inspections. The TCEF will consist of a new warehouse complex, which will house CBSA container examination facilities, a fumigant ventilation area, a LSI fixed building site and operator transload area in the warehouse. The facility is currently under construction and should be operational as of May 2018.

The Operator of the TCEF will charge fees such as drayage, scans, ventilation and de-stuffing. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) will set the fees the TCEF Operator can charge but will consult with the Industry to ensure fees stay competitive.

CBSA and VFPA are considering options to release goods at the earliest opportunity for consignees so that delays are minimized. This would suggest that the container arrives at Deltaport and is selected by CBSA to be examined and/or LSI scanned. The container is moved from the adjacent Deltaport to the TCEF and scanned through the LSI facility. Then the container will be released or transported to the adjacent warehouse for examination, ventilation testing and then subsequently released directly from TCEF by CBSA to be delivered to the importer.

Outcome for Importers & Consumers

This post will help you gain a clearer understanding of the issues associated with the current CBSA Vancouver container examination operations. It is a complex problem, which will require all stakeholders to collaborate and take responsibility in improving their role in the process in order to provide consumers with goods that are not subject to a flawed and costly system.

If you have any questions on CBSA container exams, please leave them in the comments section below, and I would be happy to look into them for you.