US Customs & Border Patrol

Once the ocean liner carrying your container arrives at an American port, the United States Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) will take over. They are the government agency responsible for checking what products come into the country. They exist to stop smugglers and drug dealers.

Not every container is checked. A zillion containers enter the country every day. They only randomly check a handful. They want to install fear that you drug dealers might get randomly selected. But the odds are slim. If you do get checked, it can take up to two weeks to process depending on congestion. And that’s not the worst part…

You have to pay them for their time. Nonnegotiable. If they search you, they will bill you. You basically get to pay them to tell you you’re not a drug dealer.

Most companies will go years without ever being searched. That being said:

I got searched. On my very first shipment. Which apparently has never happened before in the history of the United Sates. I was pissed. And then I was broke. But the experience does allow me to give these specifics though:

There are different levels of being searched. Just because you get searched, doesn’t mean you’ll get the full exam treatment. First, there’s the X-Ray exam. They drive your container through a giant X-Ray machine. The fee is split up among all the companies within the container. My five pallets cost me $100.

The next exam stage is where a Customs officer opens the container and peeks inside. The officer makes sure everything looks right and then leaves. I’m not sure if they did this with my shipment or if they just went straight to the end:

Next is the full examination. The container is driven off-site to some exam facility, often run by a third-party. Then they open the container and go through the cargo. They will open up your boxes and inspect. This is expensive. My share of the exam fees was $1000.

So I paid $1100 and my shipment was delayed two weeks. And the container with all the drugs entered hassle-free.