This article was originally published (June 24, 2016) in the CIFFA Bulletin which is issued 5 times a week by the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association.

The CBSA Progressive Examination Modal (PEM) pilot at Vancouver terminals ends today – and not a day too soon for poor, beleaguered importers who have faced ten weeks of extraordinary container examination costs and delays. The delays and costs reported by members have been extreme and were (are) due – at least in part – to the PEM pilot program.


We have been advised that the goal of the pilot was to ‘inform the development’ of the Progressive Examination Model – it is not the new model itself. The CBSA has used the project to learn more about how increased use of the Large Scale Imaging devise (LSI) and full de-stuff examinations might work in the future. We have been assured that the experience of the past ten weeks will not be the experience of any new examination model.


We also realized, in talking yesterday with the CBSA on this matter, that the current work underway by Deltaport on reconfiguring the on-dock rail may have contributed to the long delays in making identified containers available to the CBSA for LSI examination. That, combined with a challenging and expensive reservation system has most certainly contributed to additional costs and delays. One might say that the choice of this ten week period for the PEM work was most unfortunate.


So, we should expect container examinations at the Port of Vancouver to ‘return to normal’ over the next week or two as the backlog clears. That is not to say, however, that the current examination costing model is by any stretch of the imagination acceptable. 


Individual importers – the vast majority of whom are found to be compliant after the examination– are facing financial hardship as a result of these examinations.  We have several emails advising us of examination delays of + 3 weeks (called for exam May 22 and not returned to rail until June 17th!) with costs above $3000 for container examinations at Stream and some are examination charges are as high as $5000 per container. The CBSA and the entire community must understand that the current costing model for container examinations is untenable and unfairly penalizes Canadian importers (and exporters to a certain extent). 


As CIFFA stated in June of 2013, and states again, the cost of security should not be borne solely by individual Canadian importers. We need a new costing model for container examinations and we need it now. We hope that the lessons learned from the past ten weeks at the Port of Vancouver will lead to a more fulsome dialogue on what are today a broken examination process and a regressive costing model.