The Forwarder Online Magazine

Container Examinations Out of ControlContainer Examinations Out of Control

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A Vancouver based CIFFA member wrote, “Welcome to Canada. The CBSA has become the best marketing tool for the Port of Seattle.”  Incredible as it may seem, delays from vessel discharge to containers being called for examination are as long as six weeks and more at Canada’s busiest port.  And, while the entire process appears to be broken, it also appears that the rate of examinations at Vancouver is on the rise.  Importers face the consequences of six and seven week delays to their goods – reduced sales, dissatisfied customers, cancelled orders – and then are hit with exorbitant examination, storage and demurrage invoices that can be $4000 and more per container. 


The entire system lacks accountability.  The terminal operators charge storage fees of + $150 per day so what incentive do they have to make goods available to the CBSA for examination?  Why do they care if containers identified for exam are buried in the stacks?  Steamship lines pass on the charges, often with heft administrative fees and additional equipment demurrage fees, so why do they care? The CBSA shrugs its collective shoulders and claims that it has no culpability in continuing to identify containers for examinations knowing full well that the terminals are not able to handle the requests. In today’s letter to the Canada Border Services Agency, we urge the CBSA to take action to resolve the delays and expense incurred by Canadian importers at all ports and most especially at the Port of Vancouver.  While our letter calls for immediate steps to be taken to ameliorate the situation at Vancouver, in it we urge the CBSA to address both the pricing model and the regulatory framework surrounding container examinations across the country. Our letter reads in part, “Lack of leadership by the Canada Border Services Agency in addressing this long-standing and persistent problem has resulted in considerable cost to Canadian traders.  There is no accountability or transparency anywhere through-out the process and Canadian importers are paying the price.  I should rephrase.  Canadian consumers are paying the price as the cost of the delays, the cost of lost sales, the cost of physical examinations are passed on to every Canadian who purchases an imported good from a retailer in Canada.  Additionally, Canadian manufacturers and exporters who rely on imported components are paying the price as they and their suppliers struggle to deal with these extremely high and unexpected costs and delays.  The consequences of the CBSA’s approach to container examinations are considerable.  In Appendix B you will find a sampling of emails received at our office from importers and members detailing some of the impacts.” Thank you to our member firms who took the time to share with some examples of the exam costs they received and passed on.  Appendix A in the letter has some brief analysis of that data. Read the full letter here