Customs matters: inspections on import
18 May, 2017
3min. reading time
Whenever I get the chance I watch Border Patrol on tv. The inspections the Australian government undertakes are fascinating. Their work is not limited to passenger checks – but they also inspect packages, shipments and containers.
The Dutch government also protects its own people from harmful foreign influences. Their inspections are focused on 3 elements: Security, Origin and Quality. Every importer has to adhere to legal obligations in these matters.
The most important task of the government is to ensure its citizens safety, in matters of food security, terrorist threat, smuggling and illegal trade. Most government inspections fall in this category.
Food and fytosanitairy safety inspections are performed by The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (nVWA). Make sure to review their website before you start importing into the Netherlands. Some inspections have to be undertaken in the country of departure, before arriving to an EU port of entry.
Inspections concerning smuggling and illegal trade are conducted by the Customs office. They inspect only 2% of all shipments entering the Netherlands, and choose shipments based on risk profile. The criteria for the risk profile are not made public for obvious reasons, but you can imagine a separate shipment from Colombia will have a higher risk profile than the steady import flow of a reputable importer.
In my previous blog, I highlighted the importance of origin. In case you apply for preferential rates, you have to be 100% certain the origin of your products is correct. Customs checks the origin of products frequently.
There are several known cases whereby goods obtained a new origin in the transshipment port (sometimes assisted by local officials). There is a good (Dutch) blog available on this topic. Be careful and don’t only rely on information from your supplier.
The customs office doesn’t perform quality checks. If you import poor quality products, you and your customer will have to hash things out together. There is no role for customs in this.
The nVWA however does perform quality checks, but only after introduction to the EU market and often in response to a report or investigation.
Inspections by Customs of nVWA are generally efficient: often you’ll have their decision within a day. Customs has internal targets with regards to response times. You should experience minimal disruption of your logistic process, provided your cooperation is adequate. Even if your goods were not inspected on import, you have to make sure your administration is adequate, as customs can perform belated inspections maximum three years after import.
The customs office and nVWA try to reduce disruptions even further. However, inspections remain vital to guarantee Safety, Origin and Quality within the Netherlands.
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