Containers coming back into U.S.
For anyone moving BACK to the mainland - beware. Apparently there is a ... well, I don't know what to call it - but our stuff has been in transit since Sept. 9...yes, almost 2 months. Now I have received a note from the freight forwarder that we were "chosen for a random check by Customs" and I now owe an additional $667 onto my already ridiculously high bill.......seems strange to me that I have heard this story over and over and over in PMs from people who are coming back and their container is booked with a certain line. There seems to be no problem taking whatever you want into the island, but it WILL be held hostage on the way back. Do we really have a choice on paying the additional fee? Not hardly...Let the mover beware.
Sorry if this sounds awful, but it should...there's something terribly wrong here.
happens coming in to VI too, but ours went a bit different. We were bringing in full cont. of building materials from another country. Shipper mistakenly did not use Tropical, so came via other shippers, eventually Oneale for Crowley to clear in stx. (we do not like Oneale). ON tells us customs selected cont. to unload and examine. I independently speak to customs on phone, get a different customs agent, with whom we dealt before. As best I can tell, Oneale's rep annoyed them so they decided to examine. They tell me they can hold cont for up to 30 days. We had no issue with their inspection per se, but we wanted to offload at port, onto truck and not take container to our site. After talking to man we knew on phone, an hour later cont. was released., no inspect, no hold.
According to the freight expediter, that is true - Customs can hold the shipment legally for 30 days...I was told that this is happening to almost everyone, and the amount varies based on the "depth" of the inspection and varies from load to load.... the car offloaded and taken to a warehouse where the x-ray machines are, VIN cross-referenced, etc. Interestingly, this same car cleared Customs one year ago...hmmm....records on that VIN , anyone? We've only owned the car for the last 8 years.
I can be a total pain - after several weeks with no word from anyone, I am sure I was - gotta wonder if I got to pay for that Irish temper.
I was encouraged by my congressman to allow his office to get involved early on - I declined and now wonder why. One bureaucrat talking to another may have been the answer. I can't see that it could have gotten any worse. Still, I am a bit confused as to why a government agency charges extra for the very thing they are paid to do, which is inspect shipments, once all of the duties, taxes, etc. have been paid. Ah, the workings of the government....
My unhappiness lies more in encrypted messages that at the time meant nothing to me..."the shipper has submitted papers to Customs and we are awaiting clearance" (after 6 emails and 4 weeks). The next one was "Customs has the shipment". In MY mind that meant they were clearing it - oh, no, it actually meant they had pulled it for checking and cha-ching, I was getting ready to get a bill and get to sleep on the air mattress a few more weeks....but oops, no one told us that.
From many of the posts, I gather that Tropical may be a little more on top of things - we were specifically warned by a Customs agent on coming to STX one year ago NOT to use the other large shipper. We put our stuff in the hands of a freight expediter...just hope it's all still intact when it allegedly will arrive on Friday....gotta admit, this one has been a total bummer.
We also got 'picked' for intensive scrutiny. Customs broke my crystal and scratched my new table and my chairs. They tape your boxes back with green tape with customs on it. We left island Aug 16th and just received our stuff a few weeks ago. I am mad because my crystal made it from Missouri to St. Thomas to Florida before getting broken by customs, but you can't do anything about it. Anyway, not having your stuff and living out of suitcases for two months bites. Oh well. Live and learn. You never do find out why you get picked nor what they are looking for. They stopped going thru our crate about halfway thru. Customs also held our truck for an extra week and we had to pay extra for steam cleaning of a 'dirt spot' underneath the wheel well. We washed our truck before leaving STT, but they held it anyway. Makes STT shipping problems look easy. If they inspect my crate so well, why can't they find the tons of illegal drugs coming into the country? Okay, stepping off soapbox now. Good luck with your things. Open the crate carefully as it appears customs just throws it all back in - literally.
working in the customs broker/freight forwarder industry, let me just say that is important to note that customs is very strict on most items.
1. Vehicles-they will always check undercarriage for dirt
2. Broken Items-You can file a claim with C&BP
3. You are always at the mercy of US Customs.
It is best to select a forwarder and broker who knows what they are doing. It doesn't make sense to save a few dollars. Inspectors are only human (tongue in cheek) and with the power they have to make your life miserable, just grin and bear it.
Tropical is one of the better carrier services to the Caribbean.
NEVER, EVER piss an inspector off or you might just find yourself waiting for the container for that 30 days. If the inspector doesn't sign off on the entry, you ain't getting it. Ask the broker on how many intensive exams they might have during the course of a month. They are all licensed by US Customs.
What I found impossible was to find a moving company and brokers who 'know what they are doing'. Our shipping company promised to take care of everything, were not the cheapest, but failed us in so many ways. On island, it seems that all the shipping companies do not know what they are doing nor communicate what they are doing nor stick to the times they promise to have completed tasks nor answer their phone nor reply to email nor return a fax. Basically closing your eyes and pointing to a name in a phone book is the way to pick your shipper, because there does not seem to be any info on the companies nor a satisfaction percentage nor a difference between any of them. We just felt it was the way it is done on island and grit our teeth and crossed our fingers until our stuff arrived. We never pissed off anyone and did not know who our customs broker was until they called us when it had passed customs. Obtaining that info was impossible. So not only could we not pick our brokers, we couldn't find a 'good' shipper. We just gave away a lot of money and hoped that we would one day see our stuff. We prepared for the worst - never seeing our stuff again and hoped for the best - seeing our stuff again. We felt lucky to get our stuff even if we suffered some loss of items. If I ever move again, I will sell or give away everything except some pics and clothes on my back. Material goods are not worth the stress of moving them.
Do I sound cranky or what? Just suffering from a small dose of bitterness. It will pass and I will be friendly nice Teresa once again. 🙂
I guess it's easy for me to talk since I know what goes on in the industry. And I can't blame you for not wanting to do it again. It used to be easier 20 years ago when everything was done by typewriter and not computer and you invited the inspectors to your Christmas parties. Not today.
I would suggest that anyone making a move not only to get a freight forwarder in the US, but a Household Goods Fowarder of which there are many good ones. They work with overseas agents and I have found that usually works the best. For example, and I'm not sure what island you are on, but on St Thomas there is a Bob Lynch who I have met conferences and can tell you he is first class. He works with many of the major household good carriers on the mainland. These types of companies do it all the way through.
I would suggest that anyone making a move ONLY use a customs broker or local agent that specializes in household goods.
Promoguy, I've gotten to wait the 30 days regardless - and I never even had a container number to make anyone mad with! This was strictly a problem regarding the freight expediter and the lack of communication which I (and apparently only I) felt was reasonable. If I'd known it was going to take this long regardless, believe me, I would have been up everyone's butt on a stepladder. Don't see where I had much to lose.
I know 9/11 changed our lives forever - I am willing to accept that it just takes longer...but it smokes me to be charged by a government agency for doing their JOB. Hello - yep, we pay taxes, too...i.e., salaries are paid, so the extra charges are for...what? Backing my car out and looking at it? If I'm a perceived threat to society, run a drug/bomb dog through there - do a spot check on a manifest - but if you're going through a reputable mover who packed all of your stuff, shouldn't the freight broker have some sort of relationship based on past history with Customs? Or gee - can anyone see that we moved the same size load down there a year ago and there wasn't a massive influx of meth to St. Croix then?
I respect your position in the shipping community, promoguy, but I call BS on this one from Customs....and from freight shippers who don't warn you right up front that your bill is going up, up, up every time they draw a breath. I don't guess many of us are really "singled out" - sounds like they have a plan and they're running with it...
Yes, Teresa, I feel your cranky!
Becky, don't respect my position in the community since I'm not in it anymore. Wanna buy imprinted mugs and pens that's what I do with a lot less stress, LOL
I was just telling you how it is. In the end, it all in the personal experence.
If anyone wants some info and I can help, just PM me.
If you've washed it, including the undercarriage, thoroughly - well, you'll probably fly through. I will qualify all of my statements by saying we had our stuff TO the island (STX) in a little under 3 1/2 weeks - very quickly. It seems coming back is the problem...I've not heard anyone say they were inspected really hard on the way down...we had no problems at all on the first move, maybe that's why this one is just getting to me...well, that and being 50 years old and sleeping on an air mattress for 7 weeks!
I feel your pain. I wish I could burn my air mattress! I rewrote my first post on this thread a couple of times to make it nice. Today the news mentioned that 10% of cargo coming in gets inspected. I guess we don't have the kind of money to 'donate' to get the 90% treatment. I do hope you get your stuff intact.
I also agree that moving to island seemed to be a breeze compared to leaving. Here is to hoping things get better one day and to world peace.
returning to the states puts you in the drugs-to-the-us corridor. Not likely many smuggle drugs TO the vi from the states. Hence the beginning of the closer inspection. Then, many of the 90% who don't get inspections are commercial shipments from what they call "known shippers" or some such term..if you are a one timer, you stand out, just like a one way airplane ticket usually gets the full treatment from TSA. Combine that with a shipper/broker who does this rarely (and really, how many private folks ship containers back from the VI?) and your odds just keep going up and up. The shippers probably know the chances but don't want to tell you in advance, and the extra costs are a real nasty extra surprise.
I'm a little confused.
Are the extra fees you had to pay for the inspection due to increased storage for 30 days or are you actually required to pay for the Customs inspection?
If that is truly the case, then I think we all need to start a campaign with our Congress persons because that is truly ridiculous!
My interpretation is the cost is based on the size of the load they have to inspect....and I also respect the drug corrider. And I also respect the fact that the customs wallet gets fatter, while the rest of us just sit around and wait on the extra charges to mount up....and oops, had I been told there might be an associated $700 in fees, that would be one thing. No communication...so I will go pluck the funds off the money tree in the new back yard.
Extra fees can be for both the storage and the inspection. The fees go to the customs bonded warehouse where your goods will end up for purposes of inspection. The bonded warehouse does not belong to US Customs, but has a contract to handle the inspections.
Example a container is pulled and directed to a warehouse. The container can be subject to an intensive exam (container emptied and reloaded) or tailgate exam (container pulled and opened and reclosed. This is all done on a random basis.
I know this is difficult if you are an individual shipper due to constraints on the money tree. Commercial importers have been putting up with this for years. Many import programs setup by customs to make it easier for commerical imports do not apply for the individual shipper.