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You can arrange a pre-shipment inspection (PSI) to certify the standard of goods prior to the actual shipment. Pre-shipment inspections serve as a quality control method. They help you as the buyer to know that the correct quality and quantity of goods will be shipped.

As a buyer, you can request a PSI. Sometimes the country of destination will require a PSI as part of their import regulations.

PSI companies

You can arrange a PSI through a PSI company. These companies check that:

  • Approved suppliers made the goods
  • The goods are made to specification
  • The goods are tested for standards
  • The goods have no inherent vices
  • The goods are packed to specification
  • The full consignment/amount purchased is packed
  • The goods are loaded into a container and sealed
  • A light test is conducted on the container to ensure the container does not leak
  • All listed documents are filled in correctly
  • Documents are sent to the buyer

Arranging a pre-shipment inspection

A freight agent can arrange a PSI with a reputable PSI company on your behalf. If you need to obtain the PSI certificate due to a government requirement, then the inspection must be performed by the relevant inspection authorities in the seller’s country. The importer’s government will appoint the authority that must complete the inspection. Government inspection is particularly common in African countries. An example of a company you can make use of is Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) – one of the world’s larger organisations in the field of quality insurance, inspection, and verification.

Facilitating inspections

To facilitate PSIs, exporters should pay close attention to the following points:

  • Assign an assistant: Exporters or their representatives must assign a person to assist the inspector in his or her inspection (e.g. the assistant can help to carry and open randomly selected cartons for examination).
  • Separate the goods: The goods must be presented as a recognisable consignment (as distinct from lying in individual warehouse bins).
  • Ensure meaningful inspection: The goods must be presented for inspection under circumstances that allow for a meaningful inspection.
  • Include packing lists: A packing list that details the contents of each case should cover cases or cartons that contain a mix of goods.
  • Inspect before packing: Goods must be presented for inspection prior to any intended containerisation.
  • Include container numbers in reports: In a number of countries, customs will release full containers without opening and examination IF the number of full containers is included in the report of findings. In order to include the container number in reports, the PSI inspector must have the opportunity to witness the loading and sealing of the containers.
  • Ensure a customs officer is present: For consignments stored in a customs-bonded store, a customs officer must be present. If such an officer is not present, the PSI inspector may not open the cartons. This makes it impossible to examine the goods. In such cases, the goods inspection may need to be aborted.

Figure 1 below is an example of a PSI certificate.

Need some extra guidance to make sure your PSI is done correctly the first time around? Contact us today on 087 550 1038 to enquire about our freight services, or enquire online.

Tracy Venter

Tracy transitioned from industry to founding Import Export License in 2011, aiding importers and exporters with customs compliance. In 2014, she launched Trade Logistics, focusing on supporting startups and SMMEs in international trade. Since then, Tracy's team has assisted 35,000+ businesses, reaching 32,000 traders monthly through newsletters. She's contributed to publications like Entrepreneurs Magazine and SME Toolkit, spoken at trade events, and participated in customs forums. Import Export License helped with the pilot trial to launch customs' new online registration platform (RLA). Through Trade Logistics she has launched 3 online import-export training courses. She holds an Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and a Cum Laude Masters from Middlesex University. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys running, mountain biking, playing piano, and cherishing moments with her husband and four children.