As industry professionals, we spend a lot of time and energy writing, designing and producing materials in support of clinical trials. During this process, shipping materials to their final destination is often an afterthought, with address information provided at the last minute. This is not such a big deal when materials are shipped domestically. But lack of planning can derail a carefully calculated timeline when shipping internationally. Arming yourself with information can mean the difference between getting materials to a site in time for a site initiation visit and missing the deadline completely. When preparing to ship internationally, knowing the following will help minimize delays and missed dates.
1. Some countries have value limitations. Shipments have a value. Your manufacturer or fulfillment partner will ship materials at the same value you purchased them. Some countries cap the value of shipments and, when exceeded, a more formal (and longer) customs clearance process must occur. Knowing this will allow you to plan your shipments. Do you break them into smaller shipments over time to stay under the limit? Do you send one large shipment and plan for the longer customs process, so you ultimately get the materials to their destination on time?
2. Most international shipments require an importer of record. This is a person or company with an import license in the destination country that can assist with clearing a shipment through customs. If you are shipping to your company’s satellite office or a partner company, it is likely they will have an import license and all is well. However, if you want to ship direct to a destination that does not have an import license, you must have an importer of record to assist with customs clearance. When shipping direct to sites or hotels for investigator meetings, these destinations often do not have, or will not use, their import license for your materials. In this event, you need an alternative. This is easy for companies that have offices in different countries. If you do not have an in-country office that can act as the importer of record, you need to find someone who can assist, or take your chances. Planning ahead can make a big difference.
3. Some countries require additional information. Details such as tax ID’s, CUIT’s, CNPJ’s, etc., are required to import materials. Knowing destination requirements in advance helps minimize the last-minute scramble for information that can be difficult to acquire quickly.
4. Some items require additional information. Often customs offices want to know where the items were manufactured, what the items comprise (textiles, metal, etc.), and other details. The more information you know in advance the better. A shipment that is in transit can be delayed as you hunt down and obtain manufacturing information and conformity certificates.
If I can offer any advice of value, it is this: For international shipments, plan your shipping methodology in advance, and ensure you have a fulfillment/logistics partner that is knowledgeable about international customs. These two things will help keep your timeline intact, and keep you and your company in compliance.