Importers must file the Importer Security Filing (ISF), or more commonly called 10+2, for every ocean shipment entering the U.S. by vessel. Filing the 10+2 is not negotiable. However, you have 24 hours to do so before the ship sets sail from its port of origin. Remember – if you miss the boat, you may be penalized and cause delays in the clearance of your merchandise. Here’s how to comply with reporting requirements, avoid delays, and keep your business afloat.
The cargo screening initiative was introduced in 2009 to help prevent high-risk shipments, such as smuggling from being transported to the U.S. and guarantee cargo security and safety. It is fully enforced by the CBP.
ISF regulations require importers and Vessel Operating Carriers to submit information about ocean cargo before entering the country. However, the ultimate responsibility for filing rests with the importer.
According to the CBP, failure to comply with regulations can result in liquidated damages of up to $5,000 per violation. The maximum is $10,000 per shipment. Besides financial consequences, failure to comply can result in increased inspections and, thereby, cargo delays.
A question often asked by new importers is what the “10 plus 2” actually refers to? It is the number of data elements required in the filing. The Vessel Operating Carrier is responsible for an additional two details.
The following 10 elements are required from the importer:
From the Carrier, 2 elements are required:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers the following advice to avoid problems in clearing your merchandise. First, the CBP strongly recommends that you familiarize yourself with its policies and procedures before actually importing your goods. Secondly, you should be aware of any entry requirements specific to the particular commodity you are importing.
Here are some tips for sailing through customs clearance:
1. Don’t wait until the last minute: While you must file the ISF at least 24 hours before vessel departure, do it as soon as you can. Gather the information you need at least 72 hours in advance to allow for holidays and weekends.
2. Consider using a Continuous Customs Bond: If you are a regular importer a Continuous Customs Bond covers both ISF Filing and Customs Entry.
3. Revise your ISF filing as soon as possible: If you need to revise or update any information in your ISF, don’t delete it to refile later and miss the submission deadline. You can edit the ISF at any point up to the time the cargo arrives in the U.S.
4. Check your Bill of Lading (B/L): The 10+2 must be filed 24 hours before your cargo sails from the last port of origin. The Carrier must file the Automated Manifest System (AMS) arrival notice up to 48 hours before departure from the last port of origin and provide it to the importer if requested. The importer can then check for Bill of Lading issues, such as if the numbers match. Note that the B/L number is basically the only “link” between the ISF and the Cargo Manifest.
A Cargo Manifest and a B/L may carry similar information, and the concepts are not always clearly distinguished. In some cases, a single document may serve both purposes. In general, a B/L is a legal tool centering on and documenting such issues as ownership. A Cargo Manifest is more related to the cargo’s physical aspects of the cargo, such as weight and size. When the load is shipped by several shipping companies on the same vessel, there will generally be separate B/Ls for each company, but only a single combined cargo manifest. On the other hand, if the cargo contains dangerous goods, a different hazardous cargo manifest might be required.
5. How to file? The Automated Manifest System (AMS) is the main system used by U.S. customs for submitting documents they require for processing incoming shipments. In practice, the freight forwarder, rather than the Carrier, typically completes AMS filing.
All ISF filings are to be done electronically via the Automated Manifest System (AMS) or the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). This system, introduced in 2004, requires carriers to submit precise details of cargo arriving at U.S. ports within prescribed time limits. Corrections and updates must be made before the goods enter the parameters of a U.S. port. Only the party who submitted the original filing may make changes.
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