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WASHINGTON, DC: The U.S. government's General Accounting Office (GAO) says that of the 12 million ocean shipments landed in 2013, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) considered less than one percent high risk.

Customs-Inspection-1The CBP is required to hold high-risk shipments for examination unless there is evidence to show they can be waived. However the GAO says the agency doesn't have accurate data showing what happens to the shipments that are stopped.

In a 12-month study to January 2015, the GAO found that CBP examined the vast majority of high-risk shipments, but its data are not accurate because of "various factors"—such as the inclusion of data on shipments that were never sent to the United States—and that the data overstated the number of high-risk shipments.

As a result, some CBP staff may be unnecessarily holding shipments for examination while others may be waiving through shipments that should be examined.

In a report to the U.S. House of Representatives committee on Homeland Security, the GAO recommends the CBP defines standard categories for exception waivers; enhance its methodology for selecting shipments for self- inspections; and change the way it calculates the rate of compliance.

The GAO notes the Department of Homeland Security agrees with its proposals and says the CBP plans to develop a definition for each of the standard exception waiver categories; provide guidance on issuing waivers based on "articulable reasons" in its updated National Cargo Targeting Policy; update its self- inspection worksheet for the 2015 inspection cycle; generate reports on non-compliant high-risk shipments; and require port directors or their designees to review the reports and take the necessary corrective action.

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