The Basics of Clearing Customs with Christopher Wall

Christopher Wall and Joe Lynch discuss the basics of clearing customs. As the founder of a digital customs brokerage, Christopher has a deep understanding of the customs clearing process and some of the associated problems.

About Christopher Wall

Christopher Wall is the Founder and CEO of Zeus Logics, a next-gen digital customs brokerage platform. Christopher is a serial entrepreneur and investor in the logistics and enterprise software space.  Christopher is also a partner at Phoenix Asset Management, a California-based venture capital fund, and software holding company. Previously, Christopher was Director of Technology Investing at Vision Capital Advisors, where he managed principal technology and logistics investing and portfolio workouts/turnarounds at the $1B+ hedge fund. Alongside his investment career, Christopher has had a leadership role at several tech start-ups that ultimately went public (initial public offering) or were successfully acquired. Christopher earned a Bachelor of Economics and Philosophy at Columbia University

About Zeus Logics

Zeus Logics is a full-service, digital-first customs brokerage platform, enhanced by a suite of global trade management tools. Zeus’s mission is to provide the world’s best customs brokerage experience by eliminating costly delays and penalties, giving importers visibility into their customs clearance processes, and dramatically reducing the time and effort importers spend managing clearance processes. The Zeus platform: 1. Automates data collection from multiple parties. 2. Stores and organizes all documents in a centralized digital library—not siloed email systems. 3. Provides instant document access to solve customs problems and speed audits. 4. Centralizes all communications in one place, so importers, forwarders, suppliers, and customs brokers can track the whole chain of communication. 5. Provides real-time updates on the status of customs clearances.

Key Takeaways: The Basics of Clearing Customs

The Customs Process

1. Customer Onboarding

  • Power of Attorney (POA), must be signed by an officer of the company, ID must be verified.
  • If a foreign entity needs to apply for an Importer of Record number.
  • Helps to have information about the types of products being imported.
  • A product database greatly speeds up the process.
  • Bonding, either single entry or annual must be set up.
  • Payment information for customs, either direct via ACh or handled by the broker for a fee.

2. Documentation (when the shipper is ready to import)

  • If shipping by ocean, the customer provides an ISF (f.k.a. 10+2) information at least 24hrs prior to vessel sailing.
    • Name and address of Seller.
    • Name and address of Buyer.
    • EIN, SSN for an individual of Importer of Record number.
    • Name and address of Consignee.
    • Manufacturer or Supplier.
    • Ship to Party.
    • Container Stuffing Location.
    • Consolidator (Stuffer).
    • Commodity and First 6 digits of the Harmonized Tariff.
    • Country of Origin.
    • Bill of Lading Number(s).
  • Commercial Invoice
    • Needs to include INCOTERMS of sale e.g. FOB, DDP
    • date of sale
    • Complete name and address of supplier, importer, and deliver to address
    • A detailed description of goods being imported
    • Price Per Unit
    • Unit of Measure, e.g. cm2 for mirrors, boxes weighing “X”, etc
    • The total cost of goods in the currency payment was made
    • Any licenses for goods that have IP e.g. Logo merchandise
  • Provides Packing list, sometimes is done in one doc along with the CI
    • Description of goods
    • Piece count
    • Weights
    • Dimensions
  • Provides Any supporting docs for PGAs, eg. FDA
    • FDA registration #
    • If wood, LACEY act forms (to prevent the import of prohibited plants, endangered species)

3. Broker files the properly formatted information with Customs and PGAs and waits for responses from Customs.

4. Once a shipment is released, duties and fees must be paid via ACH.

Common Problems in Clearing Customs

  • Little integration of customs data into the digitalized supply chain.
  • Lack of visibility into customs processes – black hole of customs.
  • Delays caused by hiccups in the customs process generate expenses – typically demurrage.
  • Little to no accountability of service providers.
  • Opaque billing.

Learn More: The Basics of Clearing Customs

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