How to Handle the Dreaded Bill of Lading ‘No Match’ and Answers to Other ISF Dilemmas

May 26, 2015
By Michelle Kelley

Business people holding up letters to spell "no!"

If the ins and outs of Importer Security Filings (ISF) still seem fuzzy to you─you’re not alone. Apparently many members of the trade community (not just importers) are confused about the ISF enforcement, as evident by a recent question and answer round-up released by U.S. Customs & Border Protection.

Several of the questions in the Q&A revolve around what appears to be widespread confusion over a Bill of Lading (B/L or BOL) “no match,” which can lead to an ISF importer receiving a liquidated damage claim. If the “no match” is a result of an steamship line failing to transmit required data─the trade wants to know─could the ISF importer still be liable for liquidated damages from the subsequent ‘late’ ISF? Customs explains exactly which party would be technically liable in this case (hint: it’s not the steamship line) and in other such “tricky” scenarios.

The questions below were submitted to Customs during an ISF enforcement webinar that was presented on May 5. Click here to read the full Q&A.

Q: We file our own ISF in house, and “B/L no match” happens all the time, most of the time I am being told by the steamship line that they have not transmitted their information for our information to match. What should be done on our side; how can we make sure that steamship line does what they are supposed to do in order for us to avoid the NO MATCH?
A: This is an ISF compliance issue that you must get resolved with the steamship line. The steamship line is required to transmit information under the 24-Hour Rule (per the Trade Act of 2002), so your ISF transaction can match to the B/L number. If there is no match, the ISF will still appear late to Customs. If you continue to operate in this manner, your cargo may be held for inspection and you may face liquidated damage claims for an inaccurate ISF. up to $5,000 per transaction for repeat violations. If you receive liquidated damage claims as a result of the steamship line’s error in not providing you with the B/L number to match to your ISF, you should document this as a mitigating factor in your petition to request the claim be cancelled in full and/or mitigated to the lowest amount possible, but the ISF Importer must work to correct the problem.

Q: We have had many instances where the carrier changed the bill of lading type after the BILL ON FILE status advisory message has been received. In these cases, we have had to go back to the carrier to correct the error. What will be done in those instances and will Customs take this into consideration for a liquidated damage claim?
A: If an ISF importer receives a liquidated damage claim as a result of the carrier’s error, you should document this as a mitigating factor in your petition to request the claim be cancelled in full. This is clearly referenced in the mitigation guidelines.

Q: If there is no B/L match due to an error on the carrier’s side, would the penalty be issued to the importer?
A: Yes, the ISF Importer is responsible for the timely, accurate and complete filing of the ISF. If a liquidated damage claim is issued to the ISF Importer due to this error caused by the carrier, you need to include this as a mitigating factor in your petition for relief requesting the claim be cancelled in full, or at least the lowest mitigation that can be afforded based on circumstances of each individual claim. The ISF Importer must still work to correct B/L match problems.

Q: What, if any, liability does the Customs broker bare?
The ISF Importer is responsible for the timely, accurate, and complete filing. The Customs broker, as the ISF Filer, does not bare this liability from the perspective of U.S. Customs.

ISF Enforcement Webinar – Q&A
Importer Security Filing (U.S. Customs & Border Protection)

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