Merchandise Processing Fee and Harbor Maintenance Fee

Merchandise Processing Fee and Harbor Maintenance Fee

If you are new to importing goods in the US, there are many regulations, requirements, restrictions, and fees to consider. Two of the most important fees that we often get questions about are the Merchandise Processing Fee or the Harbor Maintenance Fee. The MPF and HMF are two of the most common maintenance fees you will come across when dealing with customs brokerage for imported cargo. Read on to learn all about how to calculate Harbor Maintenance fees and Merchandise Processing fees for your import shipments.

When you must pay a Merchandise Processing Fee or Harbor Maintenance Fee, the last thing you want to do is make a mistake.

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF)

The Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) is a fee you must pay to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you pay the duties and taxes on your shipment’s entry summary. However, there are exemptions to the rule like importing cargo under the many Preferential Trade Programs the U.S. has with certain countries. If you are unsure you can check the list of preferential trade agreements or visit the World Trade Organization website. The MPF is required for the following cargo types:

  • Air cargo
  • Ocean freight
  • International mail

The MPF is determined by the “entered value”, or “declared value” of your merchandise.  It is in proportion to the fee calculated for formal entries at 0.3464 percent. Formal entries are commercial cargo valued at $2,500 or more. When you are calculating the MPF you do not include the following:

  • Cargo insurance
  • Freight value
  • Duty on the shipment

In addition, the Merchandise Processing Fee must be over $26 and less than $509. So, when calculating your MPF, if you exceed $509, you only pay this maximum amount.

Additionally, there are individual fees for informal entries, ranging from $2.00, $6.00, or $9.00 per shipment. An informal entry may also include personal use imports but will always be valued at less than $2,500. One way you can figure out if you owe the MPF is to check with the MPF Table per the US Customs and Border Protection. Another solution is to choose a trusted freight forwarding company like BGI with a proven track record to help you with importing goods into the US.

Harbor Maintenance Fee (HMF)

According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the Harbor Maintenance Fee is required at certain ports for the following types of cargo:

  • Imported freight
  • Domestic shipments
  • Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) admissions
  • Passengers

You will notice that the Harbor Maintenance Fee is not charged on air freight. In addition, the HMF fee has not been collected on exported freight since 1998. The amount that is charged is .125 percent of the value of the cargo in transit. The purpose of the HMF is to help cover the costs of maintaining our nation’s ports and harbors. Therefore, the money taken from the HMF is put into the Harbor Maintenance Fund that is controlled by Congress.

How to Handle Processing Fees

When you must pay a Merchandise Processing Fee or Harbor Maintenance Fee, the last thing you want to do is make a mistake. Take care when calculating the fees to ensure that they are correct. If in doubt, choose BGI to manage your import shipments. You will get a dedicated and experienced team of logistics specialists to help guide you through the maze of import regulations, fees, and requirements.

Depend on BGI Worldwide Logistics

To find out more about other ways we can help, check out the broad range of freight forwarding and logistics services on our website. BGI Worldwide Logistics offers over the road services including less than truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload (FTL) trucking, intermodal rail, and oversized freight, as well as FBA imports to Amazon and cross-border cargo. Based in Signal Hill, California, we work with clients globally.

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Loaded bargo vessel being pushed by a tug towards port dock.


International Commercial Terms, or Incoterms®, are a series of defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce and intended to clearly communicate the tasks, costs, and risks associated with the international sale and transport of goods. The original Incoterms rules set in 1936 were divided into four categories, whereas the most recent update, done in 2010, simplifies the list by separating the eleven terms into two categories: rules for any mode of transport, and rules for sea and inland waterway transport.

Incoterms rules for these modes of transports can be found here:

Download Incoterms® Rules 

A common misconception is that Incoterms have to deal with ownership and title transfer when in reality it deals with the dividing of costs and risks.

Buying and Selling International Goods

When buying or selling international goods it is of primary importance to have a clear understanding of the responsibilities of both parties. While there are several common mistakes which can cause issues with a shipment, one of the most common and easiest to avoid is being vague or unspecific with the shipment details. For example, using abbreviated words or failing to specify the actual destination port can delay your shipment. Not specifying where the place of risk will transfer, or putting vague or a wrongly named place after the three letter Incoterm could lead to misdirected shipments and/or extra expenses for both the buyer and the seller.

Incoterms Rules for purchasing or selling goods that will be transported globally

When purchasing or selling goods that will be transported globally, it is crucial to identify where the title passes from the seller to the buyer. A common misconception is that Incoterms rules have to deal with ownership and title transfer when in reality it deals with the dividing of costs and risks. Title and ownership transfer should always be outlined in the sales contract before beginning shipment. Along with title comes liability exposure and the need for marine insurance.

While commonly used, the DDP Incoterm can cause confusion. Often sellers will quote DDP without knowing how to get goods into the buyer’s country – or the buyer will accept the DDP terms without checking to see if their supplier is registered as an importer or if they have sorted out any potential tax issues. The difficulties surrounding DDP can be more problematic and even costlier to the seller when something goes wrong, especially as sometimes complex taxes are involved. In some cases, taxes can only be paid by companies who are known to the authorities in the buyer’s country, which is often the case with VAT and local customs authorities.

In addition to potential tax and importer filing status issues, it is up to the DDP assigned responsible party to clear the goods through customs, meaning it is important that the party knows about import regulations in that specific country. Any issues, such as goods being improperly declared or unpaid taxes can put an entire transaction at risk, so if unsure about DDP and the risks involved, it’s best to speak to an Incoterms expert.

Paying attention to the details, and ensuring that the right rule is chosen for the shipment will benefit both the buyer and seller mutually and avoid any errors in the shipment of international goods.

Since shipping regulations change all the time and navigating Incoterms rules can be tricky, new shippers and even experienced shippers would be well advised to call for our guidance. After all, we handle international freight on a daily basis!

To see the other ways we can help, check out our logistics services to read about the reliable and innovative solutions we provide to get your goods to or from nearly any destination worldwide. We provide a unique personalized service that you will not find with other companies.

Our experienced specialists are ready to help clear up any confusion you might have. Please call us at 800-987-4244 for questions about Incoterms® or international freight shipping.

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Shipping oversized freight overseas

Shipping Oversized Freight Overseas: 7 Questions

If you’re an old pro at shipping oversized freight by a cargo vessel, or if you’re a newbie. Even if you’ve shipped the same thing to the same place before, international shipping rules can change and you need to make sure you don’t make a big (had to say it) mistake. If you’re looking at a monster-object in your warehouse, three things come to your anxious mind:

  1. It’s so big
  2. It’s odd-shaped
  3. It’s going overseas

“International shipping rules can change and you need to make sure that you don’t make a costly mistake.”

7 Questions We Get Most From Clients Shipping Oversized Freight Overseas

You have a lot of choices when shipping across the continental U.S. However, there are fewer companies that can help when it comes to sending heavy machinery (like bulldozers and excavators) or artwork, furniture, trucks, buses and more to foreign ports. It’s more complicated and requires expert, creative problem-solving. These are the questions we get most. The answers are below.

  1. It’s not going to fit in a container. Now what?
  2. How do I get the cargo to or from the port from the middle of the U.S.?
  3. Someone said I needed a flat rack. Do I need to load or secure the cargo to the flat rack or can you take care of that?
  4. How do I measure my cargo correctly?
  5. Should I take out extra insurance? It’s expensive.
  6. How long will it take to get there?
  7. How do I get the shipment to an inland customer once it’s shipped to the overseas port?


It’s not going to fit in a container. Now what?

We receive many calls from people who suddenly realize they’ve built or need to ship something overseas that will not fit in a High Cube, Dry or Open Top container. Here are descriptions and container specifications for reference. One choice is to dismantle the product and ship it in separate containers, which will require re-assembling on the other end. If dismantling is not a viable option, there are other ways to ship a large item in one piece: Flat Rack, Roll On Roll Off (RO/RO), Lift On Lift Off (LO/LO) and break bulk. Weight vs. measurement affect charges. Ports and terminal fees differ. Call our office for help in determining the best course.


How do I get the cargo to and from the port if I am in the middle of the U.S.?

Make sure you call trucking companies you trust for rates and availability. Or rely on a logistics company like BGI that can arrange for transport to and from many domestic locations using one of our dependable trucking partners. If your shipment is REALLY BIG (like wind turbine blades) the logistics companies that handle this type of shipment need to be resourceful and creative to find the best way to get the piece to or from the port. When people call us, we remind them to measure their item properly to make sure the trucking company will quote the overland drayage correctly. Be careful here. People have made costly mistakes. See information in #4 below.


Do I need to load or secure the cargo to the flat rack or can you take care of that?

Since we have reliable partners and service providers at most ports we can take care of having the flat racks loaded for you. It’s important to have someone you trust to handle the shipment, as not everyone knows the intricacies of managing larger, sometimes oddly shaped cargo.


How do I measure my cargo correctly?

We get this one all the time. Most people outside the industry measure differently than those people inside the industry! As you see below, you can make a mistake (usually on the low side) because you didn’t unscrew the exhaust pipe on a bulldozer or fold in mirrors on a bus.


How to Measure Oversized Freight

Photo Courtesy of


Should I take out extra insurance? It’s expensive?

It’s not as expensive as losing your item with no compensation. If you haven’t insured the cargo beyond the minimum, you will hate yourself if something happens. As we say, “You’ll sleep better at night if you have insurance.” Please see our recent blog about Cargo Insurance. If you still have questions, call us. It’s very important to insure yourself against risk. It’s also important to know that logistics companies like BGI work with insurance companies, and we are often able to achieve a much better rate for you than what you might be able to secure on your own.


How long will it take to move my cargo?

Weather, port congestion, labor, mechanical issues, etc. affect your ocean shipments. While much is out of your control, we know some things that are within your control: Paperwork is one!  Make sure you work with companies that know the current customs laws for the countries you’re shipping to. With almost two decades in the business, we have a proven track record of assisting our clients with their documents when shipping heavy machinery, buses, farm equipment, etc. all over the world.


How do I get the shipment to an inland customer once it’s arrived into the overseas port?

Make sure your logistics company is well connected. We have partners all over the world that can efficiently and carefully transport your out of gauge or heavy project cargo to your customer. Our favorite shipment in the oversized category is the  “Forever Marilyn” statue that is 26 feet tall and weighs 40,000 pounds. We have helped her arrive safely to locations in both inland China and Australia from her sculpture birthplace home in New Jersey.


Shipping oversized cargo overseas requires knowledge and a firm handle on both the domestic and the international requirements for moving oversized freight on the ocean and to and from the port successfully. Not every company that does it can do it well, nor are they able to provide personalized service and creative solutions. Besides forwarding freight, the company itself should be one you respect and that you like working with. Call us, but check out what our clients say about us first!

Oversized cargo should not create oversized headaches!

Choose the right logistics company.

Experience the BGI difference

Please: Call our offices at 1-800-987-4244 for more information.


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Amazon FBA Freight Forwarder

Amazon Associates participating in the Amazon Affiliate Program make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by buying products from overseas and then shipping them to Amazon fulfillment centers for delivery to their customers. By this means, Amazon Affiliates leverage the unquestionably huge reach of the Amazon marketing behemoth selling through FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), and make sliding scale commissions based on the sale price of each item and their volume of sales…that is if they do it right and don’t make a lot of mistakes along the way.

While you can make big money in the Amazon Affiliate program, you can also lose money. Competition is fierce.

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make in deciding to participate in the Amazon Affiliate Program is not taking time to learn everything you can about the business.”


Starting out is slow. Plus, if you think shipping in and around the U.S. is tricky, wait until you see the pitfalls of importing product for the Amazon Affiliate program or FBA, which might just as well stand for “Fundamentally Bewildering Activity.” Why?

It’s complicated.

3 Ways to Avoid Going Broke.

  1. Proceed with caution and patience.
  2. Know what you need to know.
  3. Know that you don’t need to know it all, but that someone you trust does.

#1. Proceed with caution and patience.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in deciding to participate in the Amazon Affiliate Program is not taking time to learn everything you can about the business. You can start by looking at the big picture by checking out the following (1) Amazon’s rules for shipping to Amazon; (2)  United States laws for importing into the U.S. (3)  Importing and Exporting Inventory advice from Amazon.

#2. Know what you need to know.

In addition to being cautious and knowing the big picture, you should be aware of how you can lose money. Here are some examples: (1) Not studying the market you’re selling into; (2) Not knowing the product you’re selling; (3) Not vetting the manufacturer or exporter (their rules for doing business, language barriers, etc.); (4) Not insisting on product quality; (5) Not knowing about tariffs, classes, carriers, base rates and tons of other logistics considerations.

#3. Know that you don’t need to know it all, but that someone you trust does.

You can do your homework on the market, products, manufacturers, etc., but learning about shipping and logistics will really challenge your patience. Instead, don’t blow all your hard-earned capital on mistakes made on mismanaged first, second, and third shipments to Amazon.

By finding a logistics company that fits your company’s style, sense of urgency, and values (see our white paper “5 Tips: Choosing the Best 3PL for Your Shipping Needs”), you can start to know what you’re seeking in a freight forwarding company.  Then, by having an expert supply-chain management company like BGI Worldwide Logistics, Inc. on your team, you can feel comfortable that someone does know how to do this right the first time.

You can try to learn all of the laws yourself, but as we said, it’s complicated.  Here’s how you’ll know you can trust us:  (1) We have handled many successful Amazon Affiliate import shipments and have developed a reputation as the “go-to” company in this niche. (2) We have saved businesses and individuals that experienced big problems from other companies.  (3) We have facilitated Amazon Affiliate importing transactions by taking care of customs clearance and logistics.


To avoid going broke in this niche, do your homework. Proceed with caution and patience. Know your customer, your product, and the players. Find a trusted logistics company with a proven track record in this niche to help you with importing.

BGI Worldwide Logistics, Inc. will help you get it right the first time.

Got questions? Call 800-987-4244 for more information.

Use our essential Amazon Affiliate Import Checklist  to assist you with filling out the rate request form.

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Cargo Insurance Blog - BGI

Cargo Insurance: Answers To Your Top 5 ?’s

While INCOTERMS® Rules clarify responsibility for various charges, they do not preside over loss or damaged goods cases. People who engage in international commerce should protect their freight through globally respected insurance carriers that will save them from a partial or total loss of their investment.

Here are a few questions and answers about this important insurance.

Cargo Insurance: Answers To Your Top 5 ??s

“Stuff happens. Cargo insurance (sometimes called freight insurance, marine insurance, or logistics insurance) simply protects a shipper against exposure and risk. Even reputable, conscientious carriers cannot protect against calamities..”

Freight Insurance 5 Questions - BGI Blog

1) What is cargo insurance and do you have to have it?

a. Cargo insurance protects the shipper’s products (toys, tractors, electronics, etc.) against loss and damage during international and domestic transport.

b. You do not have to have cargo insurance. If you choose not to insure separately, there is a minimal international coverage that was set forth by the Warsaw Convention in 1929. It is $20/kg for international or domestic air cargo. Ocean freight coverage is $500 per bill of lading. If the value of your shipment is above either, then we highly recommend full coverage to protect your investment.

2) What cannot be insured under a standard insurance policy?

Diamonds, gold, and cash cannot be insured under a standard cargo insurance policy. There are underwriters that may insure these products, like Lloyds of London, but these are separate policies. Loss of life and acts of God are not insured.

3) How much is Cargo Insurance and are there limits?

a. It depends. What is the cargo? Where is it going? Who is the insurance carrier? The insurance underwriters for cargo have parameters just as insurance companies for homes, cars, etc. Call BGI 888-641-7053 for a quote and guidance.

b. There are limits. Maximum cargo insurance (also called Shipper’s Interest or All-Risk coverage) is 110% of the CIF Value (Commercial Invoice Value + Insurance + Freight) and will pay for the full value OF THE GOODS THAT ARE LOST OR DAMAGED. To compare: Damage to a ten-year-old Honda would not be reimbursed at a new Mercedes rate.

4) Where can I buy it?

a. Your existing business insurance policy may completely cover you for all shipping property damage, or it may cover up to a certain amount. It is up to you, the shipper, to know the limits of all of your policies. Some companies buy “gap” insurance. That’s the difference between what their business insurance policy covers and the maximum allowed. IF YOU ALREADY HAVE SOME SHIPPING INSURANCE on your business policy, there’s no reason to pay twice. Equally, THERE IS NO REASON to underinsure. A loss is a loss.

b. You can buy insurance policies from various companies that specialize in this type of insurance.

5) Who is best to buy from?

a. The agent and company can make a difference in the same way that automobile and home insurance companies can vary.

b. It is often good to buy from a reputable logistics company like BGI. Not only do they use solely A-rated insurers, but they can also offer special rates because of the volume of business they do with the insurance companies.

c. The other advantage of buying from the logistics company is convenience. They’ll do the shopping for you, comparing companies and their rates for the type of shipping and the specific products you’re moving.

d. Logistics companies with experience develop sensitivities toward risk. BGI insisted an artist insure his painting going overseas. When the painter balked, BGI found a workaround that made the insurance + shipping costs equal to the shipping costs alone from another quote. The piece of art had a forklift driven through it in a distant warehouse accident. Though there is no replacement for the artist’s work, at least the dollars were recouped.

Choose the right insurance and the right logistics company to protect against loss. You’ll sleep better.

Experience the BGI difference.

 Please: Call our offices 1-800-987-4244 for more information.

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Air Freight v.s. Ocean Freight How to Choose - Tug boats guiding a cargo ship to port.

Air Freight Vs. Ocean Freight

Everyone is working on tight deadlines because brick and mortar retailers, online sellers, wholesalers, and manufacturers across the supply chain are trying to keep their inventories razor thin. Acquisition costs must be kept to a minimum, so ocean freight shipping is often the best solution.  Keep reading.

Meanwhile, if you’re new to the online Amazon “jungle,” you might be floating small margins to build your business. At the same time, you cannot have products arrive too soon or too late. Late shipments lose sales,  so air freight shipping might be right for you.

Choosing between shipping by ocean freight vs. air freight can be more complicated than it sounds, here are some questions and answers that might help.

Questions about Air Freight Vs. Ocean Freight

Q:  If I ship by Ocean will my shipment make it in time for my customers’ or my own just-in-time deadlines?

A:  Great question. And many times, your freight forwarder is the best person to ask! There are certainly “standard” or “average” shipping times, but these can vary. Weather affects transit times, of course.  And while the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy is an example of a well-publicized delay, port strikes and other events affect ocean freight shipping as well.

Q:  If I ship by Air won’t it be more expensive?

A:  Maybe, maybe not! See below.

Q: Can I still get FBA products to Amazon in time to resell for the 2018 holiday season?

A: IF YOU ALREADY HAVE AN ACCOUNT, yes. It depends on what and where you’re importing from and many other factors.  In this instance, air freight might be your best bet.

Our experienced shipping specialists can answer all these questions and more. For general questions about importing to Amazon, here’s a good place to start: Amazon Import Checklist. We’ve helped many customers with shipping to Amazon, and we can help you avoid costly mistakes… and even help you keep from going broke! Below are some things to consider about air freight.

Air Freight — Benefits

Import shipping by air decreases shipping time and generally results in the superior condition of goods upon arrival, allows for greater inventory control for just-in-time manufacturing and stocking, and for certain commodities, lower shipping costs. How can this be?

Calculating Shipping Costs

Historically shipping costs for air freight have been calculated based on the gross weight or actual weight in kilograms or pounds. But it’s not that easy these days.

There are two kinds of weight calculations: 1) Gross weight or actual weight and 2) Dimensional weight. [More about both of these below.] As you can imagine, by charging only by actual weight, low-density packages become unprofitable for air freight carriers due to the amount of space they take up in an aircraft. For example, if a carrier charged the same for shipping a pound of feathers as they do for a pound of produce or electronics, it would be unprofitable. Feathers take up a lot more room.


If a shipment is less than the minimum density of the industry standard, then the actual weight is not relevant and the freight carrier will charge based on dimensional weight. Dimensional Weight is calculated as length x width x height / dimensional factor. Dimensional weight is also known as DIM weight, volumetric weight, and cubed weight. Furthermore, while weight is certainly a factor in the price from sea carriers, their charge is usually based on the size of the shipment. So if you are shipping less than a container load, your price is often determined by the cubic meter. With larger and heavier shipments, it is often much cheaper to ship by ocean freight. However, as the shipment gets smaller, the margin between the prices gets smaller and sometimes shipping by air freight will even end up less expensive. [The answer is false.  Sometimes shipping by air is less.]

Yes, this sounds complicated, but because we have been in the business for over 20 years, we can help you make the very best choice for shipping your products to arrive in time for any time of the year at the best price.

Good Reasons to Call the Experts

Shippers, especially new or nearly-new shippers would be wise to call us and experience our hands-on, personalized service. Even experienced shippers would be well advised to call for our guidance. Shipping regulations change all the time. And we are all dealing with international rules as well as domestic shipping guidelines!

To see the other ways we can help, check out the various logistics services on our website to read about the many other reliable and innovative solutions we provide to get your goods to or from nearly any destination worldwide. We provide a unique personalized service that you will not find with other companies.

Experience the Difference

Get A Quote

Call Toll Free: 800-987-4244