Don't let the strangeness and unpredictable nature of customs deter you from importing from Saudi Arabia! Try this instead.

If it’s done right, we’ll do it again – and again…

It should be no surprise that a large portion of our clients are recurring. Given the nature of the industry, most people sending freight overseas don’t do it just once or twice… there are seasons and shifts, but repetition is very common.

That said, we get to see a lot of the trending occurring in different country’s economies because of what is being shipped, where, and by whom to whom. For example, one industry that has recently seen a volume increase is the auto parts industry

The point of this article is to help raise awareness in clarifying certain steps taken with your normal and specialized shipping along with the customs clearance & various levels of random inspections importers can be subjected to especially when importing from Saudi Arabia over places like Korea where we have free trade agreements in place.

There are a lot of things that occur there, and there may be charges in past bills that weren’t easy to understand when they were first encurred. This should help. 


Our San Bernandino (California)-based importer purchased auto parts from the factory door in Saudi Arabia, so all importing logistics and costs were the responsibility of the entity doing the importing.

The logistics:

Our Saudi Arabia agent made contact with the manufacturer & booked shipment based on the availability of 6×40’ high cube (HQ) containers with the steam-line to depart on one bill of lading destined to one importer. The freight agent on our positioned the empty 6 containers loaded by the factory & returned to the departing port of Jebel Ali.

Saudi export documents were filed & shipping documents bill of lading, commercial invoice & the packing list readied & sent to us in Los Angeles.

Importing to the US & dealing with customs clearance

We received all the documents far in advance to the arrival of the cargo & passed them to the in-house custom broker with the intent to be ready & quick with the filing.

When US Customs requires a 1st stage exam, which is moving the containers out of the port into a local bonded warehouse, they break the seal & do a visual of the cargo. In this case from a 1st stage visual exam with already added trucking & exam fee, U.S. customs decided to promote the 6 containers to a 2nd stage exam.

A second stage exam is the entire container with its cargo is X-rayed. Unfortunately, at no fault of the importer or anybody involved in the shipping, the X-ray machine broke & a re-schedule was initiated. This is when things get really strange, because while all the above is happening our importer is subjected to daily demurrage (storage) fees on top of the exam fees & added trucking fees.

In this instance, the accumulated demurrage fees alone were over $ 1,000 per container (x 6 + inspection + added truck moves). When customs released the containers, the terminal extended the last free day by 8 hours. Depending on the velocity & capability of your international shipping companies, you may pick-up the same day, which we were able to do, but it is not always possible.

In the interim

We immediately informed our importers, which is standard protocol, but my team takes it a step further than most, because we know how frustrating these situations can be, especially when you have no information available to guide your other decisions when trying to deal with the situation. So, we provided them with the copies of the exact incurred fees, directly from the parties billing & give our customers the choice to pay directly, which also carry the responsibility of the payment method & deadline.

Our freight company does not add any handling fee for coordinating & updating our importers, so they were only paying those assessed by customs. 

Sometimes it’s SO much easier!

Meanwhile, they keep entrusting us with their important shipments & had us air freight a large container from Dubai to the Los Angeles airport. Fortunately, no customs inspection was inflicted & the delivery was smooth as it can be.

Made in Korea

Other auto parts originate from South Korea & the cargo qualifies for the free trade agreement (it has to be made there & imported from there) to get a duty free status. So, ETC International Freight System has presently consequential shipments coming in for the same importer & the U.S.A customs can still require an exam once in Long Beach. Although, I like to say that inspection may be less prone & remain random, the geography & political climate must have a direct impact on the frequency of these customs inspections & your guess is as good as mine.

Politics plays a huge role in what we do.


We can take valuable steps to provide close estimates to our shippers & importers. However, there are the imponderables, such as a random customs inspection with the demurrage that will ensue & so when getting from your  freight forwarders your freight estimated, we recommend to take the precaution of padding the estimates for an unknown  charge. 

We always welcome your comments & appreciate hearing from you, whether, you are commenting or seeking our freight quotes. I know this can be confusing when you don’t have all of the information, so hopefully I was able to clear up some things that may have been nagging at the back of your mind.

To request a freight rate quote, contact ETC International today!

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