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Pre-Shipment Inspections Can Be Time Consuming And Tedious Tasks

By Alan Feucht

Foreign governments have long required that goods entering their countries be of good quality and are representative of a sales contract or purchase order. For this reason many countries have required that exports be inspected prior to leaving the United States.

The process usually starts with the buyer. Once a contract between a buyer and seller has been accepted the importer or buyer will arrange with their favorite inspection company a pre-shipment inspection. Although some countries require a specific company to perform the inspection others have opened it up to a variety of competitors. After the importer has requested the inspection, the inspection company will alert a representative or branch office in the U.S. of the impending inspection. Inspections may or may not happen within a few days, weeks or sometimes months so the surveyor will just wait till they get a call from the exporter requesting the inspection.

Most surveyors require some kind of identifying number or request for inspection reference to start the ball rolling. After they have identified the shipment, the exporter or their forwarder will need to supply specific details on Who, What, Where and When. The first three are easy. Who is the contact name and company name, What is the goods and Where is the location that the goods are available for inspection. When, on the other hand, is driven by the inspection field office. In many cases the field inspectors have busy schedules and need a 5-7 day window to schedule a visit. Once you have a tentative date for inspection you need to have the goods ready for inspection. This may mean opening the shipping unit or having the container staged and ready to load.

Many "less than container load (LCL)" shipments can be inspected at the port of export, however, it is recommended that the inspection take place where you can supervise and answer questions the inspector might have. You may also need to close up a crate or box following the inspection so it's best that you or your forwarder is available to help out during the examination.

Following the inspection a "Clean Report of Findings" or something similar will be issued. This is usually required at the time of import. Most reports are issued following proof of export and generally can be completed by fax.

The importer pays usual costs for such examinations, however, delays can be invoiced directly to the exporter. Communication of delays is crucial to the inspector as well as the forwarder. Containers may need to be postponed and bookings may need to be changed.

The list provided contains countries that require or request pre-shipment inspections but not necessarily mandatory inspections. Please call your local Expeditor office or one of the listed inspection companies for more details regarding individual country requirements.

SGS - 212-482-8700

Countries currently mandating SGS pre-shipment inspection (As of April 7, 1997):

  • Angola
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Republic of Congo
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Surinam
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zanzibar

Countries currently mandating pre-shipment inspections shared among SGS and other inspection firms:

  • Bangladesh
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Ghana
  • Madagascar
  • Mexico*
  • Nigeria
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Tanzania
  • Haiti

Countries currently mandating pre-shipment inspections by firms other than SGS:

  • Benin
  • Colombia**
  • Kenya
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Zimbabwe

* Selected Mexican government purchases only
** Voluntary participation by importers

Other inspection companies and countries they provide inspection services for:

  • Intertek (Inschape) - 713-475-2082
    • Nigeria
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Bangladesh
    • Colombia
    • Ecuador
    • Ghana
    • Mozambique
    • Tanzania
  • Cotecna - 703-814-4000
    • Peru
    • Ecuador
    • Kenya
    • Niger
    • Djibouti
    • Togo
    • Comoros
  • Bureau Veritas - 305-593-7878
    • Peru
    • Paraguay
    • Ecuador
    • Colombia
    • Benin
    • Madagascar
    • Sierra Leon
    • Argentina *

*4th Qtr. 97

Reprinted with permission from the Expeditors of Washington, Inc. Written by Alan Feucht, Director - U.S. Ocean Forwarding Services (206)246-3504 -

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