When certificates and paperwork are missing or incorrect at Customs or other checkpoints along a shipping line, the consequences for noncompliance can include fines and delays that impact an importer’s bottom line.
Independent Organizations Assist with Compliance
With multiple government agencies involved in the import process, there are many opportunities for mistakes. Meat importers can manage the process with support from agencies that specialize in understanding international shipping standards. For example, the Meat Importers Council of America (MICA) serves as a sounding board for importers with specific challenges. The North American Meat Importers Institute (NAMII) has teams that exist solely to help importers maintain and understand compliance with regulations. These organizations help importers and Customs brokers resolve problems. A good Customs broker will consult with those agencies on behalf of their client, making them a true partner to the importer.
Recent Changes in Compliance Regulations Put Importers on High Alert
When importing meat from certain countries into the US, the importer bears the burden of meeting quantity restrictions imposed by the US. While compliance regulations for importing meat from Canada to the United States are typically stable, there have been recent changes to regulations on ocean imports coming from South American countries, including an expansion of the list of things that can be imported from these countries. However, for example, you’re only allowed to bring in a certain total amount of meat from Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
The health inspection process wasn’t previously approved by the USDA for meat imports from South America, but that recently changed. Now, you can import from many different countries. Although rules and regulations in Canada are stable, when importing meat from other countries, the situation is more fluid. This is one area where having a relationship with a Customs broker who partners with NAMII and MICA could offer an advantage to an importer.
Additionally, there are technological advances and improved communication methods that help Customs brokers manage those quotas to assist their clients with compliance.
Tech Tools for Tracking
When evaluating Customs brokers, importers should take a close look at the digital support tools they offer. Ideally, importers would be able to sign into a cloud-based platform with as many users as necessary. From there, they could initiate all necessary documents, including PGA and Customs documentation. They would also be able to use live messaging to communicate with their Customs broker and other agencies about the status of their various shipments.
If the importer is connected to their Customs broker via electronic data interchange (EDI), it opens up a whole world of possibility as far as communication and compliance are concerned. When clearing the compliance process, the first transmission of data would come from the shipper. They can create and send the invoice as well as the 9540 application form for the USDA.
When an importer connects to their Customs broker with EDI, the broker is mapped into their ERP and the importer can complete transmission of the necessary forms with just one screen. When the broker gets the information from the shipper, the USDA gets the same set of forms. This shortens the overall process, reducing the likelihood of mistakes.
If there is a problem, like a missing Customs release, the system sends a red flag, so the shipper and the Customs broker understand that the paperwork needs immediate attention. This helps the shipper avoid delays and fines.
For shippers using international freight services, the dashboard offers a notification if there’s a problem with the proper documentation for container imports. The importer has a complete dashboard of documents required for ocean freight imports. They can also go back through previous shipments to find the document of retention to help with future compliance on similar shipments.
How Technology Assists with ISF Documentation
ISF documentation on international meat imports arriving by ocean vessel is especially important. A well-equipped electronic communication and tracking system can color code the process of approval as the shipment moves out of one country and into another. When the system gives the green light, the shipment has arrived with proper documentation. A yellow light indicates that a document is coming close to its due date. A red light means the documentation is late and there may be a delay.
If the ISF isn’t filed 48 hours before the container departure at the point of origin, there’s a potential fine of $5,000 to the shipper. Without a solid communication system in place, there’s room for error.
To avoid late shipments and fines from these issues, having access to the latest technology and working with a Customs broker who can fully support processes to help their clients stay compliant and avoid fines is crucial. During a search for the ideal broker, it’s important to prioritize their access to advanced technology and their access to organizations that offer assistance with compliance.