From CBP/Customs and Border Protection website (click here)

Container was examined by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and being charged a fee by the Centralized Examination Station (CES).  

19 USC 1467, CBP has a right to examine any shipment imported into the United States and it is important to know that you, the importer, must bear the
cost of such cargo exams.
Per the CBP regulations, it is the responsibility of the importer to make the goods available for examination-- "The importer shall bear
any expense involved in preparing the merchandise for CBP examination and in the closing of packages
" (19 CFR 151.6).  Household effects are not exempt.  No
distinction is made between commercial and personal shipments. In the course of normal operations, CBP does not charge for cargo examinations. However,
there may still be costs involved for the importer. For example, if your shipment is selected for examination, it will generally be moved to a Centralized Examination
Station (CES) for the CBP exam to take place. A CES is a privately operated facility, not in the charge of a CBP Officer, at which merchandise is made available to
CBP officers for physical examination. The CES facility will unload (devan) your shipment from its shipping container and will reload it after the exam. The CES will
bill you for their services. There are also costs associated with moving the cargo to and from the exam site and with storage. Rates will vary across the country and
a complete devanning may cost several hundred dollars. The CES concept fulfills the needs of both CBP and the importer by providing an efficient means to
conduct exams in a timely manner. CESs are discussed in part 118 of the Code of Federal Regulations and are available for viewing by clicking here.
Exams are more common occurrences (ESPECIALLY SINCE AFTER 9 11 2001):
US Customs & other Government Agency has rights to Examine your shipment(s) ANYTIME ANYWHERE.  Even if you have received US Customs Release
documents (Form 7501, Form 3641 & DO)

VACIS exam (Vehicle and Cargo Inspection Systems Exam) / X-Ray Exam:
Using a gamma ray imaging system to examine the container’s, contents without breaking the seal.  VACIS exams/X-ray exam are  usually done either at the pier
(ship-side) or at another location in the port complex.  This could take average 24 hrs to 72 hrs
.   a. Per pallet average cost $25 + if any Transporting/Trucking it to VACIS exams/X-ray exam + if any other Government fees,
.   b. For 20 feet container average cost $150 - $250 + if any Transporting/Trucking it to VACIS exams/X-ray exam + if any other Government fees  
.   c. For 40 & up feet container average cost $200 - $350 + if any Transporting/Trucking it to VACIS exams/X-ray exam + if any other Government fees

Tailgate exam/Backdoor Exams:
Customs or another government agency opens the back of the container and looks in without handling the cargo.  These exams are looking for anything suspicious
that may necessitate an intensive exam. Average cost is $100 and up + if any Transporting/Trucking it to Exam site + if any other Government fees, this could take 2-
7 days.

CET Exam (Contraband Enforcement Team) / Intensive exam / A-TCET Exam (Anti Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team):
Physical examination of any import entering the territory of the US.  Should importer become subject to a CET Exam/Intensive Exam/A-TCET you can expect that it will
be transported to a Customs Examination Station (CES) and undergo an actual hands on physical inspection & x-rays. It may requires complete unloading and
staging of the shipment for piece by piece examination of the cargo. CBP is looking for illegal cargo, smuggling, weapons of mass destruction, & other contraband.  
Many times narcotics dogs and X-ray machines are implemented in searching for items that are not allowed into the US. i.e., drugs, weapons, other suspicion & Etc.
Average cost is $500 to $5000 + if any Transporting/Trucking it to Exam site + if any other Government fees, this could take 2-8 days.

USDA exam:
USDA is usually looking for insect infestation or improper wood packaging (
Fumigation Certificate/Report is importer responsibility, NO other).  USDA may do either
a tailgate exam & an intensive exam & X-ray & other exams, depending on what they find.  Various products and countries with a history of problems may be
repeatedly flagged for USDA exams. (for example, ceramic tiles shipments from Italy, is know to have Oulema leaf beetle, Xerotricha conspurcata snails and
Helicellinae snails ). IF import can't supply Fumigation Report to US Custom/Broker, US Customs will issue
Emergency Action Notifications and ordered the
importers to fumigate the containers (Fumigating an container in US could cost $100s & $1,000's & other fees & delaying your shipment being release from US
For more details (
click here) & (click here) & (click here)
NOTE: Fumigation should be done before your shipment could leave from foreign countries, ask for Fumigation Certificate from your supplier/factory.

MET Exam (Manifest Examination Team) / Compliance Exam):
Team of U.S. Customs officials that examine invoices and packing lists on a random basis, it could led to other exam.

Here are some of other US Government Agencies who may be examining your shipment(s).

IF US Customs & any other Government Agencies has founded any violation of importation, they may confiscate & penalize the importer/exporter & .......................

Importers are getting more used to the frequency of exams, but it’s still often a mystery  as to why  a particular shipment may be chosen.  It is a fact that US
Customs  does not disclose its examination selection process to the trade community.  To do so would be a national security risk.

There are four major factors to an import transaction that tend to play a predominant role in determining the need for an exam – the shipper, the importer, the
country  of origin/export, and the tariff number.  Although an exam could be completely random, these four factors are of prime interest to US Customs.
It’s worth noting that if you are a new importer, you should plan for your first few shipments to be examined until you have an established track record with US
Customs. Likewise, if you have a history of  compliance violations,  such as country of origin marking issues, your cargo is much more likely to be examined.

Who will received Exam Notice first:
1. Freight Forwarder receives Exam Notice, if Notify Party on your Bill-of-Lading is blank or it has Consignee info (other then Customs Clearing Agent)
2. Or when Customs Clearing Agent electronically transmits the entry to US Customs.  The broker receives a response in the system as “manifest hold” on the

Manifest hold may later be overridden to an other exam.  For those  importers that are C-TPAT certified or validated, their  containers get preferential treatment by
being advanced to the front of the queue when they reach the site.  All fees (Demurrage/Storage/Exam/Storage & etc) MUST be pay before you could pick-

If your shipment is LCL (Less Container Load/NOT a full cargo):  it may NOT be, US Customs are trying to Examine your shipment, But since you are sharing a
container spaces with others, 99% of the time, US Customs will X-ray/VACIS/Tailgate/CET/A-TCET Exam the whole container & bill the whole container, and all the
consignee / owner-of-shipment will be paying for the % of spaces that was exam.  IF you shipment is FCL (Full Container Load), you will be bill for full amount.

For more details on Exams (
click here).  Other example of Exam chargers (click here)  Importers are responsible for all fees, US Laws & International Laws.
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