Don’t File eHBL on Back-to-Back Shipments: Liability Too Great

Container yard

Don’t File eHBL on Back-to-Back Shipments: Liability Too Great

In the December 19, 2016 eBulletin CIFFA issued guidance to its members to ‘Stop Filing eHBL on Back-to-Back Shipments: Liability Too Great’.  The situation on the ground has not changed and is not expected to change in the near future.  The liability is still too great and forwarders are urged to stop filing eHBL for those shipments.

Remember, a back-to-back shipment is a ‘single’ shipment where one primary carrier bill of lading or airway bill is consigned to the freight forwarder and one housebill is consigned to the importer.  Canadian freight forwarders manage thousands and thousands of these inbound transactions every year.

The problem is that a container can get delivered before it is released from Customs. (Or an airfreight shipment, but containers are far riskier.)  The risk is also greatest when the FCL or MAWB single is clearing from the primary terminalA back-to-back housebill on housebill inside a consolidation does not face the same risks as it clears from a CW warehouse, not a primary warehouse: control of delivery is easier from a CW sufferance warehouse.

What could go wrong you might ask? 

A container of fireworks was loaded in China, headed for Canada. (Yes, fireworks.) The Chinese non-bonded foreign forwarder filed eHBL data under its 8000 carrier code, without advising the Canadian consignee forwarder that it had done so.  The Canadian forwarder received the 9000 carrier’s import advice and passed the 9000 CCN on to the Canadian customs broker to clear. 

Concurrently, the container arrived and moved inland to the rail terminal.  The rail terminal operator received the Deconsolidation Notice and updated its system.  The importer sent in a trucker, retrieved the container, took it back to its location and unloaded the fireworks.

While this was happening, the customs broker received a reject notice because the entry should have been made on the 8000 cargo control number (CCN) and not the 9000 CCN. And, the container was called for examination – on the 8000 eHBL CCN.  But, it had already been delivered.  Gosh, you say. That’s a problem – delivered before release and without being examined.

The essential issue is that terminals update their systems from the automatic EDI D4 Deconsolidation Notice — or from the validated paper, as per CN16-20, as “Released” or “Re-manifested.” Drivers can then pick up the container – which may or may NOT be acquitted.

If you have containers that are already inbound on an eHBL filing, be vigilant. It is possible that the EDI D4 Notice will go automatically to the primary terminal and the container can easily be picked up and delivered without proper customs clearance. If the eHBL 8000 CCN is yours, you are on the hook for duties, taxes and AMPs.

The only way we know of at this time to keep some control is not to issue the pick-up number to the importer / trucker until after the goods have been customs released and you have the acquittal. That, of course, only works at terminal where there is a pick-up order system in place.

A much better solution is to stop filing eHBL on back-to-back containers until this is fixed.  And instruct your agents that you will refuse to handle these single shipments if an eHBL is filed overseas.  Back-to-back / single shipments should revert to ACI Supplementary data filings and clear on the 9000 CCN just as you have done in the past.  It is regressive, but it is the only safe way.  Until the CBSA comes up with a solution to ensure cargo moves securely, don’t file eHBL for single shipments.  It is too risky.