Military Surplus Import Story
We have been importing multiple 40' containers of military surplus each year, and it has always been interesting dealing with both our government and foreign governments.
From what we've been told by US Customs, we are the only company bringing in this volume of military surplus, gun parts, and other controlled components through the Port of Baltimore. Our imports come from all over Europe and Asia, with the primary market being Europe due to the nature and quantity of goods available.
We recently completed a transaction for 20,000+ gas masks and filters from Sweden, and figured we'd give our customers some perspective on what it takes to complete a deal like this.
Step 1 - Sourcing Goods
This is by far the most difficult part of the process. We're lucky enough to have a procurement agent in Europe who goes out and visits suppliers seeking out goods for us. One day he may find us crates of Walther P38's (which are coming) and the next day it may be wool blankets.
This particular import was of great interest to us, as the gas masks are Forsheda A4 gas masks, and they are brand new. We were further interested in the gas mask filters, as they are verified NBC filters, vaccum sealed, with 14 years left on them. So after we expressed our interest, our procurement agent went about setting up a deal.
Step 2 - Verify The Deal
Once we've been able to verify everything is correct with the goods offered, we then need to verify that the goods can be exported to the United States. The Swedish export authorities had no problem approving the sale and export, and we knew we'd have no issues with the import side. The supplier was very helpful, expressed interest in doing further business, and we commit to the purchase through issuance of a purchase order with payment being contingent on import permit issuance by the ATF.
Step 3 - Apply for Import Permits
The ATF controls all import permit issuance for any item on the US Munitions List. We've been actively importing controlled items that are found on the US Munitions List for over 10 years. We understand the process, have a long track record of success with the ATF, and knew this would be an easy approval.
After filling out the Form 6's for the gas masks and gas mask filters, we then have to wait for ATF to approve the permits. We sent in one via hard copy mail and it took 60 days to be approved. The second permit was submitted using the ATF Eform system, and it was approved in under 2 weeks.
Step 4 - Wire Funds
This is where most people would be nervous, as you're wiring a large sum of money to someone you've never met. This is where trust, research, and experience comes into play. We've been doing this for a long time, know how to research businesses internationally, and our procurement agent had been to the supplier in Sweden. So the funds were sent, and the supplier verified receipt of funds.
Step 5 - Set Up Logistics For Transport
We utilize the services of one of the oldest freight forwarders in the Baltimore area. This agency has shown an ability to navigate customs, arrange freight pickups in any part of the world, and communicate with everyone. At this point however we were in the middle of winter, and there were some additional delays due to weather in Sweden trying to get the container truck out to the warehouse.
Step 6 - Customs Clearance and Delivery
Once goods arrive in the Port, we need to have them cleared for release by Customs and delivery arranged to our warehouse. This is where nearly every delay comes from. This particular container was selected for an intensive exam, and that resulted in a three week delay from when the container arrived and when it was inspected. You are reading that right, Customs flagged this container and didn't even start looking at it for three weeks. Had there been any dangerous goods inside, they would have had three weeks to do whatever dangerous goods do.
Step 7 - Arrival at Warehouse, Sort and Sell
When we receive goods, we need to unload the container, sort each item, and prepare it for selling. This can sometimes take a full week, even with our experienced crew.
Total Time From Step 1 to Step 7 = 5 MONTHS
We hope this posting has been interesting. We get so many questions about what it takes to import military goods, we though we'd share the process. Look for the new filters and Forsheda A4 masks to go online in the next week!