Posted by: TRG Direct | November 10, 2009

Why are my goods inspected by US Customs?

Have you ever wondered why CBP has chosen to inspect your cargo? 

 After the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have updated their cargo examination processes in order to better protect American borders from contraband. One of these changes is the introduction of inspectional technology, known as Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS). This system utilizes low-energy x-ray and/or low-energy gamma radiation in order to effectively inspect cargo without slowing down the import process. It also increases the number of daily inspections and since VACIS provides a better picture, physical examinations are less frequent. VACIS allows Customs to identify contraband, such as illegal drugs, currency, or guns.

 CBP will identify which containers will be inspected prior to the vessel’s arrival, and the terminal must make the cargo available for CBP inspection 48 hours after arrival. If you are a direct filer you will be notified of a hold by an ABI cargo release response.  CBP typically opts to inspect cargo from suspected or actual law violators. VACIS can be used at all air, sea, and land ports and for even the most difficult commodities.

 If Contraband is Detected…

 During the examination, the cargo is placed in a shielded enclosure, and gamma rays are sent through the cargo. The amount of gamma radiation detected informs CBP of the density and thickness of cargo, allowing them to identify contraband. It takes only seconds to scan, but it takes 30-40 minutes per container to analyze the image. If any concern arises after a VACIS scan or the shipment is high risk, the container could then go to a Container Examination Station (CES) where individual boxes or pallets are unloaded and scanned with a smaller x-ray machine. It takes about a day to unload, scan, and reload 12 containers. CTPAT members go to the front of the line if their cargo is taken to a CES.

 Since CBP is unable to determine what exactly is in each container, they are looking to the importer for help.  Importer Security Filing is a new initiative that will allow CBP determine which shipments are at a higher risk for National Security threats.  Now that the importer is required to relay the origin, contents, etc of the container, CBP has a head start in their inspection process


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