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 ocean freight and other destinations. The biggest one? The actual ocean freight itself. The same options will be available to you: full container load (FCL) and less-than-container load (LCL). The way your forwarder calculates pricing and issues invoices will also seem very similar. Finally, once the container is on the vessel, ocean freight to Guam is pretty much the same as it is to any other destination.
That being said, outside of the actual ocean freight itself, there are a couple of key differences you’ll want to be aware of when you’re moving ocean freight to and from Guam. Let’s start with the paperwork.
Difference #1: The Importer Security Filing
One of the first things you’ll discover about Guam ocean freight is that moving freight into Guam is treated differently than moving freight out of 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.
Just as ISF requirements differ depending on whether Guam is your origin or your destination, so do the customs requirements around your shipment.
Difference #2: Customs Regulations
You might be surprised to know that 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? Essentially, Guam is treated as a foreign country, and your shipment will need to clear U.S. customs at its first point of entry. There are also documents you need to fill out in order to make sure your goods make it through U.S. customs with minimal delays.
(If you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, check out our full rundown on customs to and from Guam.)
As with the ISF, a forwarder or customs broker can offer significant 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.
In addition to the paperwork and customs regulations, there are also a few differences in terms of how long your shipments will take to get to and from Guam.
Difference #3: 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.
There are a lot of factors when it comes to estimating final delivery, including things like 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 and when delivery can be scheduled. There’s also another big factor that affects delivery time: scheduling your shipment with the steamship line. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
In this section, we’re going to focus exclusively on transit time, which is the time it takes a vessel to move from the origin port to the destination port.
You might assume that transit time for shipping freight to Guam and back would be about the same, but there can be fair amount of difference between the two. For example, consider this timing:
- Transit time from Guam to the Port of Long Beach, CA: Approximately three weeks.
- Transit time from the Port of Long Beach, CA to Guam: Approximately two weeks.
Now, if you’re shipping between Guam and Honolulu, the difference is even greater:
- Transit time from Honolulu to Guam: Approximately one week.
- Transit time from Guam to Honolulu: Approximately four weeks.
The reason for the differences? The vessels take different routes to and from Guam that change transit time. 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 in order to ensure that you receive your freight at your destination when you need it.
A good forwarder will also help you manage the other factors that are critical to the timing of your shipments: sail dates the all-important cut-offs.
Difference #4: Sail Dates for Shipping Freight to Guam
When it comes to freight originating in Guam, the steamship lines we work with at DeWitt Guam 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 a 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.
In other words, here’s how this example would play out:
- Booking cut-off: Wednesday, April 7
- The packed container must arrive at the port by: Friday, April 9
- Sail date from Port of Guam: Wednesday, April 14
In addition to these dates, there are a couple of other factors at play when you’re shipping freight from Guam:
- 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.
- 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 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.
Good freight forwarders are experts at orchestrating complex timelines like these. 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.
After all, as we mentioned, there are some areas in which Guam operates unlike any other place in the world. That’s definitely true when it comes to moving containers off the island. A good freight forwarder can make it easy for you, no matter your origin or destination.
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. Our Guam-based team knows all the ins and outs of getting 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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