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    The Reality of ISF Enforcement and What it Means for Importers

    We’ve been waiting for a couple of years for active ISF enforcement. Apparently Customs has finally decided to get tough on ISF filings. The decision to start more strictly enforcing ISF filings was an apparent reaction to the big drop in ISF compliance in the beginning of the year. Customs apparently saw a decrease in ISF compliance from the mid 90 percentile to the 80 percentile range.

    What we have seen in the past year or two is that shipments with ISF non-compliance were at a greater risk of an x-ray (NII – Non-Intrusive Inspection) exam. However this was by no means consistent, nor were we ever informed specifically that Customs was examining the shipment because of ISF non-compliance. As of July 15th, we have seen the following:

    – The port of Oakland started making use of newly activated cargo hold abilities for shipments that were non-compliant. All shipments are now required to be compliant and will be held until they come into compliance.

    – We have seen a dramatic increase in x-ray / NII exams. Almost every shipment with ISF non-compliance is marked for an x-ray exam. In fact, we are now able to see through our Customs Entry messaging whether the exam is being held due to ISF non-compliance. We have in only a few instances been able to mediate and prevent the exam.

    – The exam sites around the United States, not just Oakland, have been extremely busy due to the sudden increase in x-ray exams. In Oakland, where most of the x-ray exams are done at the terminals, we have seen delays extending past the normal five free days of storage time. The terminals have been offering free time extensions in these cases. We received a message today from Price Transfer’s exam site in Los Angeles that Customs is only today (August 7th) working on examining containers that in-gated at their facility on July 31st. That is a full 7-8 day delay!

    – We have NOT yet seen the any liquidated damage claims from Customs although they have made it very explicit that they will begin assessing penalties of up to $5000 per violation.

    What can importers take away from the new realities of ISF enforcement?

    – Make sure the ISF is being filedĀ ON TIME. This requires getting the ISF information in a timely manner so that it can be filed 24 hours prior to vessel departure.

    – Expect longer delays at the ports when your shipments are scheduled for an x-ray / NII exam. This is regardless of whether the exam is a result of ISF non-compliance or some other reason. The sheer number of x-ray exams due to ISF non-compliance has resulted in dramatic increase in the number of days it takes to complete the exams.

    – As the number of shipments increase along with the urgency of those shipments during the peak shipping months, it becomes even more paramount for importers to make sure they have their Customs documentation and information clear, organized, and on time for ISF and Customs entry filing in order to avoid what we can expect to see is a congested Customs exam system.

    – Jimmy Ting
    t: 650-873-9050 x.1019