Because Guam is a U.S. territory, some of the ways business is done on the island will seem familiar to you. For example, the U.S. dollar is accepted as currency. Additionally, if you’re a U.S. citizen headed to Guam, you won’t need a visa.

That being said, Guam operates differently than the continental U.S. in a number of ways—and that’s all part of its charm. When you visit, you’ll get to enjoy the diverse mixture of ethnicities on the island, including the Chamorro culture belonging to Guam’s original inhabitants.

This same principle applies to Guam ocean freight. If you’ve shipped ocean freight to other locations, some of the procedures and policies will feel familiar, while others will feel a bit foreign.

In this article, we’ll walk you through exactly what you need to know when working with Guam ocean freight. Whether you’re an experienced shipper or someone who’s new to this mode of transportation, we’ll give you a list of five pointers that will make you feel like a Guam ocean freight expert in no time.

What’s NOT Different About Shipping Freight to Guam?


First, let’s talk about the similarities between Guam freight and freight headed to or from other destinations:

  • The same familiar shipping options will be available to you: air freight and ocean freight, including full container load (FCL) and less-than-container load (LCL) service.
  • The way you package your ocean freight and air freight will be largely the same. As with all freight shipments, make sure your items are properly wrapped and securely prepped against potential damage. Whether your freight will be traveling by ocean or air, it’s got to cover a significant distance.
  • The way your forwarder calculates pricing and issues invoices will also seem very similar.
  • Finally, once the shipment is underway, moving freight to Guam is pretty much the same as for any other destination.

Beyond these similarities, there are a couple of key differences you’ll want to be aware of when you’re moving freight to and from Guam. Let’s start with the paperwork.

Guam Freight Insight #1: The Importer Security Filing for Ocean Freight Shipments


First and foremost, it’s important to understand that moving freight to Guam is treated differently than moving freight from Guam.

The first area this shows up is within the Importer Security Filing (ISF), also known as the 10+2. The ISF is a filing that’s required for ocean freight shipments arriving in the U.S. Under this rule, the agent or broker for every shipment must submit 10 points of data, which includes things like the seller, the buyer, the manufacturer, etc. Additionally, steamship lines are required to submit two additional pieces of information, the vessel stow plan and container status messages.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky:

  • Ocean freight headed from a U.S. port to Guam does NOT require the ISF.
  • However, ocean freight headed from Guam to a U.S. port DOES require the ISF.

The bottom line? If you’re moving freight that originates in Guam, make sure you’re working with someone reputable who can file the ISF for you. If you have any doubts, just ask. Any professional provider should be able to answer your inquiries and gather the necessary information for a successful filing.

Guam Freight Insight #2: Customs Regulations


Along similar lines, customs requirements differ depending on whether Guam is the origin or destination for your freight.

Guam has its own customs agency, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA). All shipments to Guam have to be cleared by the CQA, which has its own fees and restrictions.

But what about the reverse—when a shipment arrives at a U.S. port from Guam? Even though Guam is a U.S. territory, your shipment will need to clear U.S. customs at its first point of entry, whether it arrives by air or ocean. There are also documents you need to fill out to make sure your goods clear U.S. customs with minimal delays.

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As with the ISF, a forwarder or customs broker can offer assistance in this arena. They’ll help you follow the correct customs regulations and complete the right paperwork, reducing the possibility of a customs hold or inspection.

Guam Freight Tip: Unlike shipments to other parts of the U.S., shipments to Guam also require a commercial invoice that includes the shipment’s value. Your shipment may be subject to use tax on Guam, and your commercial invoice sets the base for the use tax calculation.

For more information on use tax, see the CQA website.

In addition to the paperwork and customs regulations, there can also be a few differences in terms of how long your shipments will take to get to and from Guam.

Guam Freight Insight #3: Ocean Freight Transit Times

“How long will my shipment take?” is one of the most common questions we hear from our customers.

We understand: Whether you’re shipping inventory that’s critical to your business operations or construction supplies that will keep a project moving forward, you’d want to know when to expect arrival.

Guam Freight Tip: For time-sensitive freight that needs to move fast, air freight is your best bet. Air freight shipments can get to and from Guam in as little as 2-4 days.

There are a lot of factors when it comes to estimating final delivery dates for Guam ocean freight shipments, including: 

  • How long it takes the steamship line to unload your container from the vessel. 
  • Whether the container needs to be unpacked (or deconsolidated) at the warehouse. 
  • When delivery can be scheduled.  

There’s also another big factor that affects ocean freight delivery time: scheduling your shipment with the steamship line. We’ll talk about that in a moment. 

In this section, we’ll focus exclusively on ocean freight transit times. 

Transit time: The length of time it takes a vessel to move from the origin port to the destination port.

Note: Transit times do not reflect lead time, freight cut-offs, deconsolidation time, or delivery time. Transit time only reflects the vessel’s sailing schedule from one port to the next.

You might assume that transit time for ocean freight to and from Guam would be about the same, but there can be fair amount of difference between the two. For example, consider the following:

Ocean Freight Transit Time Between Guam and the Port of Long Beach, CA

Eastbound to Long Beach

~3 weeks

Westbound to Guam

~2 weeks

If you’re shipping ocean freight between Guam and Honolulu, the difference between eastbound and westbound transit is even greater:

Ocean Freight Transit Time Between Guam and Honolulu Harbor

Eastbound to Honolulu

~4 weeks

Westbound to Guam

~1 weeks

The reason for the differences? The vessels take different routes to and from Guam. In the case of the Guam-Honolulu route, the vessel leaves Guam and makes a circle through Asia before heading to Honolulu.

A good freight forwarder will have this calendar memorized. They’ll be well-equipped to help you manage these transit times to ensure that you receive your freight when you need it.

A good forwarder will also help you manage the other factors that are critical to the timing of your ocean freight shipments: sail dates and the all-important cut-offs.

How Long Does It Take Freight to Arrive to Guam?

Want more information on how long it takes for air freight and ocean freight shipments to get to Guam? Check out our article on Guam shipping times.

Guam Freight Insight #4: Sail Dates for Guam Ocean Freight

When it comes to ocean freight originating in Guam, the steamship lines we work with schedule one sail date from the Port of Guam per week. Similarly, those same steamship lines schedule one arrival to the Port of Guam per week.

When you’re timing an ocean freight shipment, these sail dates are only half the story. You’ll also need to understand the steamship line’s booking cut-off.

Booking cut-off: The last day that a steamship line will take reservations for a particular sail date.

Take the example of a steamship line that sails from Guam on a Wednesday. The booking cut-off is the previous Wednesday, so all reservations have to be made before then. Additionally, for many of the vessels leaving Guam, the container has to be in the port by a Friday in order to get on the vessel the following Wednesday.

Here’s how this example would play out:

Sun. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat.

In addition to these dates, there are a couple of other factors at play when you’re shipping ocean freight from Guam:

  1. In the case of a consolidated shipment (LCL), you also need to allow time for the container to be packed and loaded before the shipment can move forward. In other words, if the container needs to be at the port by Friday, you can’t drop off your freight Friday morning and expect it to make the cut-off.
  2. All paperwork has to be completed, including the dock receipts, permit to load, etc., and the shipment has to be cleared with Guam customs before you can even make a reservation with the steamship line.

Procedures will vary from port to port, so the way a steamship line handles freight originating in Honolulu or Long Beach will differ. However, all steamship lines will have cut-off dates for booking and for receiving freight.

Is your head spinning with all the timelines and requirements for shipping ocean freight to or from Guam? That’s where a good freight forwarder will come in. You tell your forwarder where your freight needs to go and the date you want it to arrive, and they’ll deal with all of these timelines and scenarios to make it happen.

Guam Freight Insight #5: Partnering with the Right Freight Forwarder Can Make All the Difference

Good freight forwarders are experts at orchestrating complex timelines like the ones above. When you’re moving freight from Guam, they can be especially helpful in making sure your shipment doesn’t hit any snags in terms of paperwork, customs, steamship line rules, etc.

As you’ve seen, there are a few key distinctions to note when you’re moving freight to or from Guam. In other words, when it comes to Guam freight, a little knowledge will go a long way—but a knowledgeable forwarder can make Guam ocean freight and air freight easy for you, no matter your origin or destination.

If you want to learn more about how a Guam freight forwarder can offer you some distinct business advantages, check out our article: How a Freight Forwarder Can Simplify Your Logistics.

Need some help moving freight to or from Guam? We’d be happy to help coordinate your shipment to get your goods where they need to go—on your timeline. Just reach out to one of our experts for a free consultation to get started. In concert with our DeWitt sister company, Approved Freight Forwarders, we can get your shipment where it needs to go, whether it’s headed for the U.S. or any other destination in the world.

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