Customs brokers as agents have limitations and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) considers the importer of record as the ultimate responsible party. The CBP and other agency websites have a wealth of information including compliance and procedural manuals. It is highly recommended that all importers research their products and read Introduction to Importing on the CBP website prior to making an overseas order.
Damages in transit do happen but not as often as one might think. When they do, people often are surprised to learn how little carriers reimburse upon damages. Ocean carriers are liable only up to 500 US$ per container. With less than container loads (LCL) liability is even less, often between 1-25$ per KG depending on the commodity. Inquire about cargo insurance if you don't want the risk or can't accept the loss.
Use sales agreements for orders. Incorporate compliance requirements with US import regulations within sales agreements if possible.
When negotiating an international sales contract, both parties need to pay as much attention to the terms of sale as to the sales price. To make it as clear as possible, an international set of trade terms (INCOTERMS) has been adopted by most countries that defines exactly the responsibilities and risks of both the buyer and seller including while the merchandise is in transit. Most common sales terms are Ex Works (EXW), Free on Board (FOB), and Cost Insurance & Freight (CIF).
Book your transportation with a US agent as opposed to having your supplier arrange a booking overseas. Many foreign suppliers do not know about the requirements of the importer security filing ( ISF 10+2 ) and a US agent will see your customs broker is provided this data and the filing is done timely.
JBM CUSTOMS BROKER LLC