Shipping

Overview of shipping:  export and import issues

International shipping can be mysterious — and it's costly and time-consuming when it goes wrong. Some examples:

UMass Lowell was fined $100,000 for shipping an EAR99 atmospheric testing device to Pakistan. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but the recipient was identified on the Commerce Department’s Entity List as ineligible to receive any items subject to the EAR.

Two shipments of experimental equipment were sent to Italy on two carnets (which allow temporary import without duty or VAT). All the material was sent back to the US — but on one carnet.  As far as Italian and US Customs are concerned, that means everything shipped on the *other* carnet is still in Italy, and MIT owes $29,924.31 in VAT.

A shipment of white phosphorous was sent to an MIT PI as a gift. In addition to being hazardous, it's also used to make methamphetymine and controlled by DEA. It sat in storage, running up storage fees at $200/day because we could neither receive it nor send it back.

An instrument was sent back to its manufacturer in the Netherlands for repair. Since it wasn't set up as a temporary import, FedEx paid the import VAT ($3000?) for us, and then sent us the bill. 

International shipping is also subject to numerous export and import controls and regulations. Fines, confiscation, or incarceration can all result from failing to comply.

Exports

Shipping to destinations outside the US (refer to the Export checklist).

MIT is the shipper of record — not FedEx or the customs broker — no matter who fills out the forms.

Everything that crosses the border is an export...

        ...even if it's temporary
        ...even if it wasn't sold
        ...even if it will be used for research

Most things, and some software & information, are export-controlled to some degree.

Some entities, people, and uses are restricted — you can't ship to them without approval.

Some items are hazardous, and need to be packaged and labeled appropriately:

  • Biologicals
  • Chemicals
  • Batteries and Fuel cells
  • Radioactive

The shipment needs to get into the destination country (as well as out of the US Tariffs or VAT may be due, based on the item's tariff code, country and value.

The shipment can be delayed or incur unexpected costs if the paperwork is wrong or incomplete.

It can be hard to fix problems once the shipment is on its way.

Import

Receiving shipments from outside the US (refer to the Import checklist)

All incoming shipments are cleared by U.S. Customs, with varying levels of scrutiny.

Some items are restricted at the import stage

  • Biological specimens
  • Certain fish and wildlife, and products made from them
  • Fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil
  • Items from Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, and most of Sudan

Some items are restricted at the delivery stage

White phosphorous can be delivered only to a DES licensee.

Import duty may be due, based on the item's tariff code and its value.

The shipment can be delayed or incur unexpected costs if the paperwork is wrong or incomplete.

It can be hard to fix problems once the shipment is sitting in US Customs.

Thanks to the International Shipping cross-functional team:  Susan Boster (Mail Services), Damual Greaves (Insurance), Dan Kallin, and Emily Ranken (all EHS), and Sara Malconian (VPF).