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Shipping Best Practices

Taking care of "First things First"

Once you have successfully completed your online "Instrument Use Agreement", reviewed the "Data Delivery Policy" and signed your "PI Acknowledgment", your are ready to move on to the next step.

Planning is Crucial

Helpful Tips "Straight from the horse's mouth" 

"Being able to import your equipment quickly is key to a successful deployment.... so don't wait until the last minute."   


"Each country is different, so ask a lot of questions and don't assume anything."

Most countries will require an import fee that can be very costly, so it would be beneficial for you to look into obtaining a waiver which can often times be justified as a "temporary education and research project".  Issuing countries refer to these waivers differently.  For example, there is the "Franquicias" (tax exemption waiver) and there is the "Licencia de Importación Temporal" (Temporary Import License) which also helps to reduce, if not waive, the fees altogether, so you will need to inquire locally in order to determine the proper documents to proceed with the application process.  "Temporary imports" range from country to country ( 6 mos.,1 year, 2 years?) so be sure to ask.  You will likely be required to renew the waiver prior to it's expiration if you have a multi-year deployment.   The time involved in getting the waiver and it's designated term varies dramatically, so begin inquiring early.

Sometimes import fees are specifically referred to as a "Temporary BOND" and are usually refundable within 30 days after the import has been terminated through Customs.  These fees are based on a percentage of the CIF and a VAT Tax on the total value of the shipment.

Try to have all the Customs paperwork done before shipping.  Most Customs will charge for storage so you don't want your equipment sitting around for weeks racking up storage fees while you sort out paperwork.  Often your shipment will arrive Friday afternoon and you will have to pay for storage over the weekend (very little you can do about that).

  • Be sure to ask how long it takes for the necessary paperwork to be processed and 'assume that is a minimum amount of time'.   People often want to be helpful and hence, are not very realistic with their estimates of time.  
  • Be sure to ask exactly what is needed in terms of paperwork to clear customs.
  • Find out if the shipping company you will be using has a broker/agent that can facilitate the customs paperwork.   In some countries you cannot do it yourself and you need to have an agent (they will usually charge an additional fee for this service).
  • Most universities have a broker/agent for Customs clearance purposes as do most U.S. Embassies.  In some countries, the U.S. Embassy can prove most helpful ("I have found this to be the best").  Majority of US Embassy's have experienced personnel that are willing to assist in this process.
  • Ask your collaborator(s) in the hosting country about the possible availability of resources through their agency.
  • Usually a university or government agency operating a "seismic network" in the country can help.
  • USAID is often times an option for import and export assistance.
  • Seek the advise of other U.S. PI's that have worked in the country on past experiments and find out from them which would be the best way to deal with customs. 

Ask if one international airport versus another within a country is easier to use for clearing customs (if you have a choice).   Sometimes the smaller airports are easier.  If you don't speak the language fluently (or even if you do) it is helpful to have someone from the country talk with the customs people and remind them that it is a joint project.

Be sure to get a shipping quotes and have a contact person that you can call or email to get updates on the shipping and clearing customs progress.

Remember that most countries have more holidays than we do and do not work on weekends

Budget wisely and expect to pay 'some' fees for importing the equipment beyond the shipping fees.

Make sure the international insurance on the equipment will work within the country and find out if the country requires additional insurance for inland transportation. 

Make sure that you arrange transportation from the airport to your staging area ahead of time. 

It is likely that the customs official will unpack a pallet or two and look in a box or two .  They may or may not put the pallet back together.  If you are transferring the equipment to another plane or truck be sure to ask if they can keep the equipment on the pallets.  In most cases they can, but for example, if it has to travel on a smaller plane then the pallets may not fit through the door of the cargo bay.  Also ask what kind of truck will be used and how to contact the driver to facilitate delivery at the destination. 

In many countries the drivers do not unload (there are no fork lifts) so make sure you are prepared to handle the unloading yourself.

It is important to make sure to import and export exactly the same amount of equipment otherwise you can get caught up trying to get the equipment back out of the country at the end of the experiment.

If you need assistance with your next deployment, jackie [at] passcal [dot] nmt [dot] edu (e-mail) us and a member of our shipping team will contact you.

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