The approximate distance from the Czech Republic to San Francisco is 5819 miles (9,366 kilometers). Indeed, the process of moving the products from one part of the world to another takes more than just one type of transportation. And what’s more, it can be quite exhausting…"What is ISF and why is it so important?, Why do we need customs broker?"These are just two out of many questions we were asking ourselves and desperately searched on Google on a daily basis.
Before we arranged the first large shipment of just crystal glassware from the Czech Republic into the U.S., we knew nothing about the necessary procedures, and how to coordinate all of those different types of transport. We learned so much about all of the requirements, processes, and the reality of shipping items over the ocean.
Take a guess on how long it took us to receive our first shipment…are you guessing one month? Well, the first shipment took almost three months (!!!) The second cargo, which consisted of 11 pallets with crystal glassware, porcelain (retro, blue onion , and porcelain sets), jewelry, and chairs, was much faster and the whole process took roughly one month.
I wrote this blog post as a simple guidance for anyone that wants to ship overseas from EU to USA. I divided the process into six steps, based on my own experience. There is more that goes into each step, but you can get the hang of it just by reading the guidance below. In order to successfully transport your goods, follow these steps:
Step 1: Find an overseas shipping company provider
Logically, the first step is to find a shipment company. We organized our first shipment with Schenker Inc., without any previous research. I would love to give them five-star feedback and a recommendation, but the level of service did not meet our expectations – maybe two out of five stars. We were complete newbies in this shipping world, and we were provided with almost no information about the shipment, all the required documents we need to prepare before the shipment arrives, or any additional helpful tips.
The second shipment was significantly easier for us, partly because we knew what footsteps to follow, and we switched from Schenker to Austromar,which was a better transport provider from our point of view, mainly because of better communication. Although the shipment provider plays a key role in the whole process, it is important to mention that they will not be the only ones you communicate with.
A helpful tip: make sure that your goods can be wrapped in carton boxes. You would think that this is obvious, but our shipment had to be re-packed because the shipping company only accepted wooden boxes, which slowed down the process by a week.
Step 2: Fill out ISF Form
Once you find your shipment company and scheduled pick-up and delivery to the EU port, you need to keep an eye on the deadline for Importer Security Filling form. This form must be filled out and sent to the carrier 24 hours before your cargo is loaded onto the vessel, otherwise you will have to deal with pretty high penalties and delays.
ISF must include the seller name, buyer name, importer of record number, consignee number(s), manufacturer or supplier, country of origin, what party is the cargo shipped to, and HTSUS number. You can find more info about ISF here.
For the second shipment, we hired Marine Air Land Intl Services LLC to help us with ISF filling, customs broker clearance, and general inquiries about the shipment. Their service was absolute professional and excellent, highly recommended for international large cargo shipments!
(Photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
Step 3: Obtain Bill of Landing
Once you are done with ISF, you have to wait approximately 2-3 weeks for the shipment to actually get to the port. Roughly one week prior to the arrival, you will receive Bill of Landing from the shipment company provider. The Bill of Landing is usually ready few days after the cargo ships by the shipment provided company. The document informs you about the approximate date of arrival and exact location of pick-up.
Step 4: Pay port fees
Once you receive Bill of Landing, you will also have to pay all port fees included in an invoice from Vanguard, which is the leading neutral freight consolidation service in the U.S. This was another surprise for us, as the cargo would not be released before these fees got paid. They are quite high (around $600) and they include vessel loading, cost insurance and freight charges, and loading/un-loading from the container.
Your shipment provider will provide you directly with the invoice from Vanguard, so you won’t have to communicate with them, just pay the invoice according to the instructions.
Step 5: Customs Clearance
Now, another important piece of info!! It is essential to obtain a customs clearance confirmation before the cargo arrives. This point can be very tricky, or at least it was for us. Throughout the first shipment process, we tried to clear the cargo with customs by ourselves. However, we were not aware of the fact that if the value of the goods you are bringing into the U.S. exceed $2,000 USD, you need to hire a certified customs broker.
For the second import, we hired Marine Air Land Intl Services, and they performed excellent service with the customs clearance, so we got our cargo couple days after it arrived in the port.
Step 6: Pick up your Cargo
Finally, when you have all the documents, you can take them to the warehouse (you can find out which warehouse to go to from your Vanguard invoice). Make sure you have all the following:
- Your personal ID
- Bill of Landing – provided by your shipment company
- Commercial invoice – it should state the total value of goods you are importing
- Vanguard invoice – just to be sure
- Delivery order – this should be provided by your broker once the shipment arrives
Provide them with the items above and they will release the cargo to you. You can also have it delivered to the door, but we didn’t use that service for cost cutting purposes. We simply rented U-Haul truck for one day and carried it ourselves. Note that the particular warehouse will also charge you their warehouse fees, which varies depending on how long your cargo is stored in their facility.
The process might seem exhausting and confusing, and there are many different parties included in the process. There are million things that might go wrong and delay the import, but if you follow the six steps above, you have done everything in your power. If everything goes planned, it should take approximately one month to have your goods imported. When you are done all of this, grab your favorite drink and celebrate!!!
If you have any questions or want to find out more details about any of these steps, write in the comment section below, or don’t hesitate to reach out directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I hope this was all somewhat helpful, and good luck with your imports!