Our adventures with Freight Forwarding and Customs Clearing

Literally weeks had gone by since I emailed and called a handful of freight forwarders from the Port of Baltimore website.  I had heard back from one…I didn’t know then that that quote would be our best price out of 30, but when you know little to nothing about something, you want to make sure you’re not getting taken advantage of.  After weeks of no callbacks and my one lonely quote, I decided I would go to the Port of Baltimore website (again), and email as many as I could in a day and see where that took me.  At around the same time I decided to start harassing all the freight forwarding companies in Baltimore, I realized that asking for help on Facebook might be a good way to get some referrals for some reputable companies.  By the afternoon, I had emailed 35 freight forwarders/customs clearance reps and had started to get responses from actual human beings, all the while my Facebook status seeking help was blowing up.  At the end of the day I had over 20ish recommendations and responses to look into combined.  Go Facebook!  Something you should know about the customs clearance/freight forwarder game…they all ask you different things and things that you would think would cost the same between companies…don’t.  I will explain.  A single entry bond at one place will cost me $75.00, another it will be $75.00 for every $1,000 of the value of whats in the container that’s being shipped.  Others will recommend getting a continuous bond, voiding the single bond altogether because they believe it is the better deal for you at  $550.00.  So many different prices for the same things! It was mind blowing.  Also…do your research.  In the case of our container (which has a kit to build a boat in it…in case you’re new here), we were first given a Harmonized Code that usually applies for complete sailing vessels without engines—the code was 8903.91.  With this code, we would be required to pay to customs 1.5% of the total cost of the items in the container.  I provided this code  to each and every person that I requested a quote from.  Most used what I gave them and got me numbers back right away, but a couple straight up told me that the code I had been given by the freight forwarders shipping the container to me was wrong and demanded more info.  A few companies said that our list of items did not fall under this code at all because it is just that, random items, and is not considered a boat at all.  These companies asked for codes for each individual item and then we would calculate the duty from there…although we never got any quotes on this…it seemed like the most expensive route, so I was thankful when this turned out to be incorrect.  While we were getting in all these quotes and requests and being told our code was wrong, we were told by another person in the business that we should not be paying any customs duties on the items in the container at all…we liked this and ran with it.  Ridge googled and found another code that seemed to apply to our situation. Harmonized Code: 8906.90  stated the following “Chapter 89 SHIPS, BOATS AND FLOATING STRUCTURES Note. 1. A hull, an unfinished or incomplete vessel, assembled, unassembled or disassembled, or a complete vessel unassembled or disassembled, is to be classified in heading 89.06 if it does not have the essential character of a vessel of a particular kind.”  Seemed kind of perfect right? Did I already mention that it was duty free?!  I emailed our find to our top companies and when we heard back from all of them we got…you guessed it…different answers.  One went ahead and immediately changed our quote to the new code, no questions asked and two emailed us and told us that it would not fall under that code because that code is meant for powerboats.  This has been a reoccurring theme throughout this entire process—uncertainty.  We ultimately made our decision after we had our shipper reach out to the freight forwarding company in South Africa to explain in detail that each item in the container makes a sailboat…with no engine, thus our original harmonized code was correct and that we would need to pay 1.5% of the value of the container to customs.  We are still sorting things out and the container and have no photo proof of what’s in the container, or that it’s on the ship, but we do have the word of the companies involved.  YAY!  The container shipped on November 7, 2017 and is scheduled to arrive at the Port of Baltimore on December 4, 2017.  I will be sure to keep you all posted on any new developments in regards to freight forwarding and customs clearance issues!  Next big problem to solve…where to put the container…

Categories: Uncategorized

1 comment

  1. your shipping container is going to be filled with dead hookers. Trust me, I’ve seen The Wire


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