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.
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.
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 0861 0 TRADE (87233) to enquire about our freight services, or enquire online.
Trading with regulated and prohibited goods
Each country has different requirements regarding what they classify as regulated, restricted or prohibited goods for import and export trade. For example, some countries might allow prescription medication or animal skin trade, while others do not. Sometimes, a country may prohibit a product for import, but only regulate it for export.
What is the difference between regulated goods and prohibited goods?
According to Customs, prohibited goods are goods that are not allowed to cross the border either out of or into the country. Attempting to import or export prohibit goods can lead to serious fines and even criminal charges.
Regulated goods are goods that are controlled by an import or export permit. These permits regulate either the quality or quantity of the goods. Quality permit restrictions are controlled by government departments such as the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Environmental Affairs for example. Volume (quantity) permits are usually controlled by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC).
For imports, some products need to be sampled and tested before the import permit is issued. An example of this is when the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is required to test a product for safety. The permit may only be issued once the SABS accepts the product as safe.
How do I know if my goods are regulated or prohibited?
The good news is that Customs has made it easy for importers and exporters to find out whether they are allowed to bring their goods into, or take them out of, the country.
Figure 1 below shows an excerpt from the Customs list of regulated and prohibited goods. An explanation of each section in the figure follows.
- Heading: This is the 4-digit number or the first 4 numbers of the HS/tariff code.
- Designation of goods: The description of the goods according to the category they fall into.
- Prohibition or restriction: Stipulates how the goods are controlled for import or export.
- Authority: Stipulates the law (Act) that authorises regulation or restriction of the goods.
- Action required/Detained for: Lists the authority that must be notified if the importer or exporter is stopped.
- Competent authority: The authority responsible for issuing the import/export permit.
- Customs mandate requirement: Outlines what Customs must look for when checking the imports/exports.
- Document requirement: States what Customs must see on the permit provided.
If the importer/exporter is not in possession of the applicable permit, then the regulated and prohibited goods will not be allowed into or out of the country. Should Customs need to store the goods for the duration it takes to obtain the necessary permit, the importer/exporter will accrue storage costs. Delays in Customs clearance due to incorrect documentation may also result in business losses due to lack of availability of the goods. It is therefore very important to make yourself aware of any restrictions and obtain a permit before Customs clearance.
You can look up prohibited or regulated items in our lookup guides below. Our office can obtain most permits for you.
For assistance with permits, enquire online or call 0861 0 TRADE (87233).