Steve Knights Insights into USA Shipping Regulations

Shipping life sciences products in to the USA can be a minefield. You have the right documentation, you’ve booked the carrier, you packed it a temperature-controlled atmosphere. Off it goes to the Airport. And then, it arrives in US customs and gets stuck there for days. The coolant runs out and the product is ruined. What can you do to stop that?


Well firstly it’s very important to carefully examine the Harmonised Customs Codes to make sure that you are including the right HCC number on your invoice. The Tariff is vast and there are codes for everything – some very specific, such as “rock salt” – but others very vague such as “Equipment & products for laboratory use”. If you are not sure what HCC code to use, go to: https://dataweb.usitc.gov/scripts/gsp/gsp_tariff.asp and type in part of the description. For all antibodies and molecular biology reagents we recommend 3822 0050 90 as being the closest match. The HCC code needs to be shown clearly on your copy commercial invoices. In addition, for the USA , you may need an FDA approval code. There does not seem to be a set way to get one of these, other than waiting for the FDA to pull your product at Customs! After that happened we were allocated a code for our product in the format “66L—DT”. Again this should be shown on your customs documentation. The other thing we have learnt is that certain couriers such as Fedex can supply a premium service where if a temperature-controlled shipment gets stuck in US customs, they will go in and top up with dry ice as required. This has proved very useful, but of course it does cost more.


Following these simple guidelines should ensure that your product has a smooth ride, but be aware that the US FDA and Homeland Security systems are constantly evolving and what once worked may not work in the future.

For more information please see the below pfd from the 2 day seminar held in Philadelphia in August this year: