This letter is in response to your article entitled “”DHS Inspects B’ayan Boxes” published on January 31, 2011. First of all we commend you on educating our fellow Filipinos on what is happening within the Balikbayan Box Industry and the challenges both Freight Forwarders and customers are faced with. These inspections started towards the 3Q of 2010. Though the gist of the article is correct, it is not factually accurate. We feel it would be in the best interest of your readers to know the actual facts about the transit times cited in your article given the fact that your newspaper is circulated primarily in the Washington, DC Metro Area.
In your article, you state: “Previously it took an average of 24 days from the time the box is received in the forwarder’s warehouse until it is delivered to the door of the beneficiary in Metro Manila. Now it can take up to 35 days or more.” These transit times were accurate about 1-2 years ago and only for shipments originating from the west coast. Prior to this, the transit times from the east coast including the Washington Metro Area were 32 days port to port, not warehouse to delivery.
As of February 1, 2011, OOCL and NYK, two of the largest containerized vessel providers have a published Port to Port (Port of Baltimore – Manila North Harbor via Seattle or Port of Norfolk to Manila North Harbor via Norfolk) transit time of 37-41 days depending on the weekly sailing schedule. This does not include the time needed to check in and process the container at the port of load and the time needed to clear and process the container once it arrives in the Philippines (usually another 2-3 days). So at best, from the freight forwarder’s published collection deadline, it takes roughly 45-50 days before the container is received by the forwarder’s warehouse in the Philippines. Add on another 5-10 days for delivery within Luzon and you are looking at a total of 50-60 days from the time your shipment is received at the forwarder’s warehouse in the US to the time your box is delivered to its intended recipient.
DHS charges Freight Forwarders the minimum of $2400 for every container it checks. It goes up depending on the container size, storage time and the number of man hours it takes to physically inspect tagged boxes. This fee could go up close to $4,000 or more in some instances if penalties are involved. DHS can hold the container for a week up to a month at their discretion.
Once a container is tagged for inspections, the container is taken out and all boxes are unloaded. Each box goes though an X-Ray machine and Customs officers select about 20% to open and physically inspect. After inspection, boxes are resealed with the markings “Inspected by US Homeland Security Customs and Border Patrol.”
We hope articles regarding this matter do not dissuade customers from sending packages to their loved ones back home. We advise customers to allow for up to a month in delays and to be responsible in packing your boxes. Under declaring or misdeclaring will only result in further delays, penalties, additional fines and possibly jail time.
World Int’l Cargo Transfer USA (WICT USA)
Thank you for the clarification. Most of the data the Manila Mail used came from reports of the Department of Homeland Security and forwarders in the West Coast who recently met with US officials.