No matter what type of shipment you have, it needs to be cleared through Customs accurately and quickly. It is, in many ways, the linchpin of all international shipments because it touches all aspects of the industry.

Customs clearance has become a specialized science in determining which clearance is best, and a customs broker can proactively find the right “formula” to expedite delivery times and save money.

Working with an experienced customs broker can benefit your business in a variety of ways.

What Does a Customs Broker Do?

A customs broker is a federally regulated and licensed individual, association, or corporation authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assist in the clearance process of international trade.

A customs broker can prepare customs entry documentation, calculate the necessary duties and fees, clear shipments of imported goods and make payments on behalf of the business.

While it is not required to have a customs broker, many businesses outsource customs brokerage due to the complexities of importing and exporting goods. Customs brokers have extensive knowledge of shipping regulations, duty, and tax policies, as well as the harmonized tariff schedule of the U.S. codes and systems. They’re also well-versed in dealing with port authorities and government agencies within the shipment's jurisdiction.

It’s important to note that a customs broker is different from a freight forwarder.

A freight forwarder organizes transportation for individuals and corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to the customer, whereas a customs broker assists importers and exporters with clearance in meeting U.S. government requirements to ensure a smooth clearance process.

A freight forwarder will be able to coordinate with a customs broker to clear your freight, but the freight forwarder cannot act as a customs broker without being licensed.

There are some companies, such as IBC, that are licensed as both a freight forwarder and a customs broker. This streamlines the critical shipment clearance process that often causes delays and is extremely advantageous for your business when compared to working with multiple vendors. We’ll hit on the benefits of an all-in-one provider later on in the blog.

First, let’s discuss the benefits of working with a customs broker.

>>>Related Resource: Learn more about the responsibilities of a customs broker.

What are the benefits of working with a customs broker?

The process for shipping into the U.S. is complicated. Without extensive knowledge, navigating the complexities of Customs can be difficult and time-consuming. Working with an experienced customs broker can help your business avoid delays and costly penalties for non-compliance, expedite delivery times, reduce costs and streamline your entire logistics supply chain.

Some of the most common causes of delays and penalties that a customs broker will help your business avoid include:

  • Misunderstanding import laws. This includes trying to transport restricted or prohibited items you can’t ship into the U.S. that violate import regulations.
  • Incomplete paperwork. Documents help Customs identify the items being shipped, the quantity, the value, the origin country, and the destination country as they make it into the U.S. Without the proper documentation, delays are bound to occur.
  • Compliance regulations. Understanding compliance regulations is another reason why it’s recommended to work with a global logistics provider that offers customs brokerage services. They can help your company navigate the sea of changing laws around particular commodities to ensure import compliance.

>>>Related Resource: Learn more about the most common delays in Customs clearance.

Avoiding delays and penalties are just some of the benefits of working with a customs broker. They can also help your business expedite delivery times and save money.

Take Section 321 Entry Type 86, for example. Some shipments to the U.S. do not require the payment of duties. Low value (de minimis) shipments to the U.S. need not pay duties and can often be cleared in advance – before even physically arriving in the U.S. A customs broker can determine if your shipments are eligible for this type of clearance and handle the entire process.

Section 321 entries can also benefit from using an Express Consignment Carrier Facility, otherwise known as an ECCF or HUB/ Express Courier.

These express HUBs are recognized as Customs facilities because they’ve been approved by CBP for the examination of express consignment shipments. These shipments are transported by an express consignment operator or carrier via air and processed in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) through direct electronic transmission of entry data. With express, the entire process is expedited since there are officers on-site, in addition to CBP-AS (Agriculture Specialists).

This benefits businesses with time-critical shipments for events like trade shows, photoshoots and fashion shows. For shipments sent non-express that may be subject to holds, shippers have to wait until Customs inspects and releases them, which can lead to delays.

This is where working with a customs broker that is also an experienced global transportation provider can be extremely beneficial to your business.

For example, IBC’s Miami Express Courier Hub has more capabilities than other ports of entry into the U.S. It operates outside of regular Customs hours with two CBP shifts. This allows IBC to recover your parcels as late as 5:00 pm, and still get them out the door to the final mile provider same-day.

Keep reading to learn more ways businesses benefit from a customs broker that also provides all-in-one services for international shipping.

Benefits of Working with an All-in-One Provider

Clearing Customs is just one component of shipping internationally. Other factors you’ll need to consider include:

  • Packaging. Depending on the country where your shipment is being sent, you’ll be required to handle the packaging and labeling accordingly. If you’re unsure how to go about this, consult a global logistic provider. They’ll help you determine the best container option.
  • Time of transit. Since there’s more involved with international shipments, it’s important to determine the time of transit, so your package arrives where and when it needs to. A global logistics provider like IBC has the partners in place to ensure your package arrives on time.
  • Medium of transportation (air, ocean or land). You can ship internationally through various mediums. Regardless of which transportation option you choose, consider the cost, time and product you want to ship. Shipping by sea is generally more affordable, but transit may take longer. A global logistics provider can help you determine the best mode of transportation.
  • Insurance (if applicable). The risk of damage or theft is higher with international shipments. If sending valuable goods internationally, talk with a global logistics provider about insurance. They’ll ensure your goods arrive safely to their final destination.
  • Weight of the package(s). Shipping fees are based on the weight of the package, so it’s important to weigh your shipment accurately. Shipping fees may also be based on the size of the package, dimensional weight. If the package is weighed or measured incorrectly, you may end up paying extra. That’s why many international shippers rely on a global logistics provider like IBC to assist with this step.

When you consider all of these factors, it makes sense to work with a global logistics provider who understands the intricacies of international shipping rather than handling them all on your own.

Additionally, you may need some, or all, of the following services:

  • Transportation
  • Warehousing
  • Sorting
  • Inventory management
  • Labeling
  • Packaging
  • Fulfillment
  • Last mile delivery

The above takes significant time and effort to coordinate, and, just like clearing Customs, there is little room for error.

While a customs broker can keep shipments moving by preparing documentation ahead of time and helping you avoid delays in clearance, an all-in-one global logistics provider can create custom solutions to help mitigate issues caused by port closures, inventory shortages and pandemic-related challenges.

For example, the pandemic has shaken up the logistics industry over the past year and many larger integrators are setting restrictions on logistics services, with some overcapacity to support any new customers at all.

With volumes projected to rise, you’ll want an all-in-one global logistics provider like IBC that can navigate these challenges and create custom solutions for your business.

>>>Related Resource: Prepare for the challenges of peak season shipping.

Our global distribution network consists of over 18 hubs, 59 gateways, and 220 countries and territories, meaning we can handle a high volume of shipments, and have the agility to deliver where and when others can’t. As the largest non-integrator operator of U.S. Customs and Border Protection ECCF (Express Consignment Carrier Facilities) facilities in the U.S., IBC operates CFS (Container Freight Station) facilities, specializing in Section 321 Clearance and Type 86 clearance at five strategic U.S. locations:

  • New York
  • Miami
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • Dallas

These multiple injection points allow us to adjust rapidly to unexpected changes and our 24/7 customer service team is always standing by to assist.

For instance, we can quickly re-route shipments if a port suddenly closes, as well as offer specialty services for time-sensitive shipments.

>>>Related Resource: See how the life sciences industry relies on IBC’s for a seamless supply chain.

IBC Solutions for customs brokerage and beyond

With IBC, you have one central point of contact from start to finish. And we can provide your business with more than customs brokerage services; we provide a seamless logistics supply chain.

IBC specializes in worldwide shipping services with the ability to customize a logistics solution for any business. If it needs to move, we can help. From small parcels to large containers – via air, ocean, or land – across one international border or many – we know the rules, regulations, and the right way to get it there.

Contact us to learn more about our solutions for customs brokerage and all your logistics supply chain needs.

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