Scientific Shipments to SIO Vessels in Foreign Ports

Procedures and Responsibilities

This document clarifies procedures and responsibilities for shipments to SIO vessels in foreign ports. These procedures are driven in part by implementation of the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations for ship security.

Review export control compliance: The movement of many scientific instruments are regulated by the federal government, and it is the scientist's responsibility to comply with export control regulations. Guidelines for scientists bringing instruments aboard SIO-operated vessels are linked here.

Ship’s Agent: in most ports the SIO Marine Facility (MarFac) hires a ship's husbanding agency to handle the ship’s business while in port. The agent has considerable local knowledge of the port and facilitates such things as: inward/outward clearance, Customs, immigration and other regulatory formalities, crew changes, contact with local vendors and so forth. The agent may also assist with clearing shipments of spare parts or scientific equipment through Customs and final delivery to the vessel. The agent tracks all his time and expenses on behalf of the vessel and bills MarFac accordingly. MarFac engages the agent to handle ship’s business, not scientific business.

MarFac/Ship Responsibility for Scientific Equipment/Shipments: begins when equipment is delivered dockside to the vessel. Ship personnel will load the equipment aboard. If a shoreside crane, forklift or other equipment is needed to load the ship, MarFac will cover the expense. MarFac is not responsible for expenses (or effort) related to clearing scientific shipments through Customs, storage and final delivery to the ship. Likewise at an arrival port, MarFac will cover expenses to offload scientific equipment. Once the equipment is on the dock, arrangements and expenses for ground transportation, storage and onward shipment are the responsibility of the owner.

Overseas Shipments: scientific groups frequently send shipments of equipment overseas to meet the vessel in time for their cruise. Shipments can range from small packages to 40-ft ocean containers. For small packages a delivery service such as FedEx, UPS or DHL might be engaged. For large or containerized shipments a freight forwarder or ocean carrier might be engaged. All shipments should be addressed to the Master of the ship in care of MarFac’s agent (or your own agent) for the particular port.

Regardless of the final destination of any shipment, shipments are typically held in a bonded Customs area on arrival in the destination country or city. Shipments will remain in this area until Customs paperwork is processed and ground transportation is arranged for final delivery to the ship. This is what you need a local agent for.

Return or Onward Shipment of Offloaded Equipment: at the end of your cruise you may have equipment and/or samples to ship back to your lab or another destination. Again, having a local agent will greatly simplify arrangements for ground transportation, Customs formalities and onward shipment.

Selecting an Agent: most ports have a number of maritime or shipping agents vying for your business. You are free to select MarFac’s agent or any other agent that suits your needs. If you select MarFac’s agent, you must make your own financial arrangements with them. In most cases you can contact agents by email, describe your needs and they will send you a pro forma estimate of expenses. Once you select an agent, they will typically ask you to transfer the pro forma amount to their account before any services are rendered. At the conclusion of the business, you will receive a final statement with a refund of unused funds or a request for additional funds to settle the account.

Manifesting your Shipment: whether you are shipping from the US to overseas or vice-versa, it is imperative to have your shipment thoroughly manifested - list all items (by noun name if possible), quantities and values. If you are shipping equipment overseas from the U.S. and this equipment is scheduled to return to the U.S. at some point in the future, it is highly recommended that you register the equipment (or entire shipment, as appropriate) with U.S. Customs using CBP Form 4455 prior to the shipment leaving the U.S. – this will help to avoid tariffs and other problems upon re-importing the equipment to the US after your cruise. Form 4455 applies whether your equipment leaves or subsequently returns to the U.S. aboard a commercial carrier or a research vessel. A competent domestic shipper or freight forwarder should be able to advise you on this matter.

Bill of Lading: once your shipment begins its journey, a Bill of Lading (BOL) will be issued for items going by ocean carrier. For air freight, an Air Way Bill (AWB) or House Air Way Bill (HAWB) will be issued. For shipments bound to a Scripps vessel, send copies of the BOL, AWB or HAWB and manifest to your agent, the vessel Master and the SIO Marine Technician Group as soon as possible. Scanned copies saved as PDF documents and emailed as attachments work very well. Once your shipment is delivered dockside, it WILL NOT be accepted for loading aboard ship unless the Master is expecting it.

Shipments of Chemicals and other Dangerous Goods: whenever possible avoid shipping chemicals and other dangerous goods. If you need certain chemicals for your cruise, try to obtain them locally in the port of departure. An agent can be of great assistance in this regard. Sometimes chemicals can be acquired locally from or through academic colleagues and organizations. If you must ship chemicals, ensure that all applicable regulations are followed. Be aware that regulations between point of origin and destination can vary; again, an agent can help sort this out. For guidance on proper packaging and shipment of hazardous materials, contact SIO’s EH&S Specialist. Regardless of shipping arrangements, all chemicals MUST be accompanied by appropriate Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). You can send these to SIO’s Marine Technician Group in advance of your cruise or deliver them personally to the Master when you arrive aboard.
Note: while on board you are personally responsible for proper use, handling and stowage of any chemicals you bring. This includes proper collection, stowage and disposition of any wastes generated. At the end of your cruise you are responsible for removal of unused chemicals and any related wastes from the ship.

Addressing and Marking of Shipments - shipments should be addressed and marked as follows:

    Master, R/V (Vessel Name)
    Attn: (Scientist’s/Owner's Name)

    C/O (Local Agent’s Address, POC and telephone number)

    Ship Spares or Scientific Equipment in Transit for R/V Vessel Name
    Hold for vessel’s arrival on (date).

Note: marking the shipment as "Spares/Equipment in Transit" for a particular vessel will expedite Customs clearance in the destination country.

Foreign Shipment Checklist
  • Select an agent at port of destination/loading
    • Make financial arrangements with agent
  • Select shipper
  • Shipment manifest
    • Copy to agent
    • Copy to vessel Master
    • Copy to SIO Marine Technician Group
  • US Customs Registration (CBP Form 4455 if applicable)
  • Bill of Lading
    • Copy to agent
    • Copy to vessel Master
    • Copy to SIO Marine Technician Group
  • MSDS for chemicals
    • Copies of MSDS to vessel Master prior to loading aboard ship

MarFac Agents: a list of MarFac’s foreign port agents can be found here.


Revised 8/21/09