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Customs controls on import: how does it work?

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Customs controls on import: how does it work?

Ritra Cargo’s customs declaration department drafts thousands of import declarations annually. Some of the shipments concerned will later be selected for customs control, which usually results in delays to these shipments. Unfortunately, by its very nature the shipments picked for checking cannot be predicted. How does the custom authorities’ selection procedure work, how often are Ritra Cargo clients’ shipments checked and how can you mitigate these delays?

Which shipments are checked?

Every year, the customs authorities will check an average of 5% of incoming shipments. These checks can be restricted to a document check or may concern an actual physical control. Shipments are often selected at random. However, occasionally checks can be more focused and selection can then depend on one or more factors:

  • The type of product being imported
  • Country of origin of the products to be imported
  • Reputation of the party that drafts the import declaration


Customs authorities also sometimes decide to target specific product groups or countries of origin. They will do this for instance if there exists a justified doubt about the product’s value. For example, over the past year this has been the case for fabrics and shoes.


50% better than the national average

In 2018, only 2.5% of import declarations drafted by Ritra Cargo were selected for checking. As with previous years, this is well below the national average of 5%. This means that fewer containers experienced delays, which is of course exactly what you want!


Limiting delays due to customs checks

Customs authorities select the shipments to be checked. No other parties influence this process in any way. Therefore it is possible that your shipment can be chosen for checking at any moment. Depending on whether the checking process concerns a document check or physical control, your shipment may experience a delay of 2 to 5 days.


Submitting an advance declaration can limit this delay. Prior to the shipment arriving it will already be clear whether it has been selected for checking. This allows the advantage of planning it in sooner, thereby limiting the delay. Therefore we would advise you to share all documents required for the import declaration with us as soon as possible.


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