Physical Examination of Cargo

The removal of goods to the hall, or any other premises for the purpose of examination, opening, unpacking, repacking and subsequent removal shall be performed at the risk of the importer.

The importer, exporter, manufacturer or owner of any goods, or the carrier or agent acting on behalf of a person must, whenever required to do so by the Controller, convey any package(s) selected for examination to a place designated by the Controller (Section 6(1)(F).  Such person is responsible for ensuring that such packages are opened and unpacked in the presence of and on the instructions of an officer.  Any costs associated with making a shipment ready and available for inspection (such as labour costs for unloading, unpacking and repacking the shipment) are the responsibility of the importer, exporter, agent, etc. Section 15(1).

If, possible, Controllers must ensure that where goods are detained on importation, in terms of section 98 of the act, with the aim of establishing whether such are liable for forfeiture  as well as to ensure that the declarations of all particulars are correct, that at least two officers are present at such examinations. A representative of the importer i.e. his agent, or the importers themselves should be present.

Purpose of physical examinations

The purposes of examining cargo is to ascertain that the cargo is as described in the entry field, whether for importation, warehousing, deposit into an Export Processing Zone, removal in bond, exportation, or other purpose.  The officer conducting an examination will verify that the following items on the entry regarding the cargo are correct:-

It is for this reason that officers must develop a familiarity with and understanding of the Harmonized Customs Tariff, explanatory notes, the Prohibited and Restricted List of Imports, previous rulings, Value Added Tax legislation, Rules of Origin etc.  for adequate customs control.

Routine nature

Physical examination of cargo is a routine function. Therefore, not all goods have to be examined. It is thus advisable that officers need to select goods carefully bearing in mind that we need to strike a balance between trade facilitation and enforcement. Every effort will be made to do it as efficiently as possible and at least possible expense to the importer/exporter; however, expense to the importer or difficulty in conducting the examination are not reasons for avoiding examination.  

Note: Local instructions shall be issued to importers and exporters advising them how to make arrangement for examinations.

Explanation of the reasons for examination

Checking officers/ Customs need not justify or explain to the agents/importer, exporter its reason for conducting a physical examination.  If an importer believes a disproportionate percentage of his shipments have been designated for examination, he may lodge an informal enquiry with the Controller.  If he is not satisfied with the Controller’s explanation, he may enquire in writing to the Director.

Extent of physical examination

In cases when goods declared for home use shall be examined, this examination shall take place as soon as possible after the Goods declaration has been accepted. Priority should be given to the examination of live animals, perishable goods and other urgent consignments. If goods are to be inspected by other competent authorities, for the purpose of applying veterinary, health, , etc., controls the Customs should, where practical, perform their examination at the same time.

However, Customs may also require that goods to be examined by other competent authorities. It is not generally necessary for a shipment to receive a 100% examination.  A 100% examination occurs only when every box, carton, or other package in the shipment is opened and the goods within it are examined.  Normally, an examining officer will only open as many packages as necessary to satisfy his concerns or the concerns expressed by the checking officer.  

When only a portion of the shipment is to be examined, the checking officer or examining officer will designate which packages, containers, etc. are to be opened for examination.  Under no circumstances will this be left to the discretion of the importer, exporter or agent.

Place of examination

Goods may be directed to the State Warehouse or other location.  Where they are too bulky to be examined in the State Warehouse, where they require special conditions such as temperature control, or where the importer, exporter or agent so requests, such goods may be allowed to be examined at the importers premises.  Requests for examination at importer’s premises require that special attendance will be paid and the importer, exporter or agent may be required to transport the Customs officers from his or her normal work site to the examination location and back to his or her worksite.

Physical Examination of Cargo Guidelines

Click on the link below to download the Physical Examination of Cargo Guidelines.

Physical Examination of Cargo Guidelines

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