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As the need for international shipments develop, there are key steps that any organisation or entity initiating shipping will need to undergo. Response organisations acting as exporters/shippers will need to take key actions to obtain information and coordinate shipments:

Data Required from Requestor/Receiver
  • Receive specific information about the required shipment – Quantities, specific item types, required dates, and more. 
  • Clarify import/export regulations into and out of the countries relating to the shipment.
  • Identify delivery terms, Incoterms and which parties are responsible for what stage of the customs process.
  • Identify all documentation needs with the receiver and provide advanced copies to the consignee or customs agent before the shipment.
  • If budgets are signed off by either or both parties, communicate potential costs for clearance and shipping.
  • Establish viable transport methods (air, sea, road, rail) and identify delivery locations and dates.
Shipment Preparation and Organization
  • Work with vendors to properly identify HS codes, and fulfil all documentation, packaging and labelling needs.
  • Understand national and international regulations surrounding both regulated or banned goods, and legalities around countries of origin/destination.
  • Include physical copies of all required customs clearance documentation with the shipment.
  • Ensure all required documentation is available, and (where available) double check physical cargo so that items, quantities, and dimensions match documentation.
  • Solicit, identify and contract with a transporter, freight forwarder or other certified entity familiar with customs.
Strategies for Emergency Response Organisations
  • Work with respective program and operations teams to identify routine response activities and pre-define cargo that will likely be used in response activities.
  • For propositioned stock, it is possible to pre-identify HS codes, shipping documentation needs, and screen against country level import regulations (example – WHO approved medicines list).
  • Solicit and identify third party vendors who can rapidly provide the specific products required for response, and make agreements that include documentation and labelling needs.
  • Develop agreements with forwarding agents and shipping agents to provide rapid transport service and information on customs and infrastructure bottlenecks.


An organisation or an entity acting as importer or consignee intending to receive a shipment should also take steps to properly prepare and identify needs.

Defining the Importation Process
  • Any organisation used as a consignee for any shipment must be legally registered in the country of importation. The registration process varies from country to country.
  • Wherever possible consignees should avoid listing single individuals as consignee, or using abbreviated or acronyms for agencies as consignee names.
  • If necessary, solicit and enlist the services of a clearing agent/company that is duly registered and licensed by the customs authorities to process the import documentation through customs.
  • Work with national authorities (customs, health, bureau of standards, border security) and/or contracted clearing agent to identify import regulations and requirements and share with the exporter/shipper.
  • Work with national authorities and/or contracted clearing agent to understand all tariffs, duties, fees and possible exemptions.
  • Define with the exporter/shipper the Incoterms and limits of responsibilities with the forwarder and/or contracted transporter.
Preparing to Receive Shipments
  • If the importer/consignee is also the requester, the importer/consignee should endeavour to provide as much information on the required cargo to the exporter/shipper as possible.
  • Prepare for receipt, storage and inspection of the consignments in country.
  • Understand the entry points and bottle necks associated with customs clearance.
  • Have all documentation ready before consignment arrives.
  • Expedite clearances where possible by pre-clearing using advanced copies of documentation.
  • Track shipment and know when it arrives in country to avoid demurrage or lost cargo.
  • Pre-identify transport to remove cargo from customs, ideally planned around the size of the shipment. Have adequate storage or down-stream deliveries planned as well.
  • As soon as consignment arrives, arrange for inspection and clear the consignments through customs.
Possible Customs Specific Regulations for Importation
  • Temporary importation for use of items and re-exportation at a later date.
  • Provisional customs release pending perfection of the documentation at a later pre-defined date, e.g. pending exemption letter, certain permits.
  • Entry of re-exported cargo.
  • Entry of transit cargo, under security bonds.
  • Re-importation of cargo after temporary exportation for repair of maintenance.
  • Seizure and destruction of prohibited cargo.
  • Customs penalties/fines for incorrect declaration by consignees or their appointed clearing agents.
Strategies for Emergency Response Organisations
  • Liaise with programming and operational teams to assess needs, and use assessment outcomes to validate needs.
  • If possible, apply for authorities and waivers for the exports and the imports.
  • Attempt to expedite exemptions. Where exemptions are already given, immediately authorise shipment of consignments ensuring all the correct paperwork is in place and that the shipping instructions are appropriate.