News & Publications

Ask Your Logistics Experts… Is It Possible to Expedite Customs Clearance of Cargo Arriving by Ocean

Q: Is It Possible to Expedite Customs Clearance of Cargo Arriving by Ocean to the U.S.?

A: Many first-time ocean-transport customers wonder if they will need to wait days for their cargo to clear customs before being allowed to collect it. Luckily, the answer is ‘no’! 

In fact, you don’t even need to wait for your cargo to arrive in the U.S. Port of Entry before submitting your documents for clearance.  It is possible to have your cargo “pre-cleared” so when the ship discharges your container(s) from the vessel, you can pick it up immediately, thereby avoiding all port detention and demurrage charges.  

How is this possible? By having a good document flow and knowing the correct parties involved. This is essential to ensuring a seamless clearance process.   

Normally, five days prior to a vessel arriving to port, the shipping line will send out “Arrival Notices” (AN) to all their customers who are discharging containers at that particular port.  Once you receive the Arrival Notice, you will need to forward it to your Import Customs Broker along with the invoice and packing list.  Your Broker then submits these documents to Customs, which in turn will clear your cargo and provide the entry document back to the Customs Broker. 

This entry document is called the “Customs Form 3461”. It is also known as the "Release Document," the "Permit" and the "Delivery Authorization Document."    To learn more about Customs Form 3461 go to:

This clearance process can take anywhere from one to three days; but, if you provided your information timely and to the right people, your cargo can be cleared by the time the vessel arrives to the port.   
If you need help with your international transport or customs broker management, please contact us at:


This website uses a variety of cookies, which you consent to if you continue to use this site. You can read our Privacy Policy for details about how these cookies are used. Manage Cookies