Cross-Border Shipments

Cross Border Shipments

Anyone who has ever crossed an international boundary knows that it can be a challenge just getting yourself into the country, let alone a full truckload of cargo. It can also be very simple and straight forward. Having proper documentation and abiding by the laws of the country you are exporting items to, are the keys to success for any cross-border shipment.

For the purposes of this article we are going to concentrate on importing items into the U.S and Canada. Overseas countries may have different rules and we recommend you speak to an experienced international freight-forwarder for advice on a particular region.

There are two main types of cross-border shipments. In-bond and an standard shipment. While there are variations of the two, we will discuss the two main categories:


Generally speaking an in-bond shipment applies to any cargo inbound to the U.S or Canada that will not be permanently staying in the country you are exporting to. Several types of bonds include:

Temporary Import Bond (TIB) – As the names states if you wanted to temporarily import an item into the U.S or Canada and then return to the country of origin. An example would be shipping an aircraft engine into Canada to be repaired and then returning the engine to the airline in the U.S once the repair is complete.

In-Transit Bond (IT Bond) – An in-transit bond would be used for cargo travelling with a bonded carrier (Like IMT) and travelling directly to a bonded warehouse in the US or Canada. The shipment would be allowed to cross the border and then is not allowed to deviate its route until it clears at the designated bonded warehouse. A company that has facilities in the U.S and Canada would likely have a bonded warehouse and use this type of bond to avoid duties, taxes and a consumption entry fee. This is a type of bond that would be used for a permanent exportation (or importation depending on how you look at it).

Transportation & Exportation Bond (T&E) – Any cargo that came from or is going to an overseas location must cross the CAN-U.S border under a T&E bond. An example would be a helicopter going from Vancouver to the Port of Houston, then put on a cargo ship for overseas exportation. Or if you reverse that and the helicopter came from overseas, landed in Houston and then was transported via truck to Vancouver.

A8A Bond (Cargo Control Document) – This bond is a little like an IT bond, it is used for items travelling through Canada. An example would be if you wanted to ship an item from Seattle to Anchorage, it would have to travel through Canada to reach its destination but is not being permanently exported into Canada. Another would be for an engine going from Toronto to Vancouver and the truck driver travelling through the upper U.S to reach their destination.


If you sold an aircraft engine to a customer in the U.S you will need to permanently export the item into that country. To permanently export or import you need one of two numbers:

Pre-arrival processing system (PAPS #) – From Canada to the U.S

Pre-arrival review system (PARS #) – From the U.S into Canada

These numbers are generated by the carrier and are unique to each shipment. The PAPS or PARS number is preceded by the carriers Standard Carrier Alpha Code, or SCAC.

To export or import an item requires the services of a customs broker. The broker will let you know what documentation is required and communicates directly with customs on your behalf. IMT works with a number of different brokers and sometimes a customer will have its own in-house broker.

When taking a shipment across the border IMT will handle the manifesting. This involves gathering the necessary paper work (commercial invoice, work order for engine repair, etc.) and submitting to the broker. We also need to provide details on the truck, trailer, driver, point of crossing and date of crossing. This all needs to match up with documentation submitted to customs or else the shipment will not be allowed to cross.

Military items are a little different as there is more regulations and security involved. All paperwork is in hard copy triplicate and has to be manually brought by the driver to the customs agents at the border. All paperwork is detailed and meticulously checked on both sides of the border.

Confused yet? Imagine putting multiple shipments on one trailer and trying to cross the border only to find out the paperwork is wrong for part of the cargo and correct for the rest of it. Any commercial driver will have stories of hours (or even days) spent at the border that will put your border crossing horror story to shame.

The bottom line is there has to be an exact account and declaration of any item or person crossing into the U.S and Canada. While they may seem stringent or difficult, these regulations are part of the reason Americans and Canadians enjoy safe travels in both countries.