Picking up your imported used motor vehicle at the Port of Tacoma

TCB Blog Used Vehicle at Port of Tacoma.jpg

As more people become aware of the values available in used motor vehicles, especially from Japan, the Transmark Customs Brokers import team has seen a significant increase in these shipments – particularly into the Port of Tacoma.

This port is a major gateway for vehicles moving from Asia to North America, with service provided by several major “Ro-Ro” (Roll-On, Roll-Off) ocean carriers, whose vessels are designed specifically to carry large numbers of motor vehicles.  These vessels frequently call at Tacoma, as part of regular services from Japanese and other ports. 

TCB regularly clears vehicles through US Customs at Tacoma, for our clients.  This process is usually very quick, and most of it can usually be done before the vessel arrives at port. 

After the vehicle arrives at the Port of Tacoma, it must be released by:

  •  the importing carrier,

  •  Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (a part of US Customs), and

  •  US Customs,

before the importer or importer’s agent can pick up the vehicle from the marine terminal.                                                                                             

At this point, the vehicle is technically released, but there are a few more steps involved, for most vehicle importers.  These include:

1.      According to the applicable Port of Tacoma import tariff, the Port charges vehicle importers $9.75 per 1,000 kilograms of vehicle weight, with a minimum of $101.61 per vessel.  However, the Port usually waives this charge for “first time” individual importers.  When required, payment may be made to Port staff at the office which handles vehicle releases.  (Stop #1 below)

2.      Because the marine terminal where vehicles are picked up by importers or their agents is part of a maritime security area, each person who enters the terminal must either have a Federally issued “Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential” (TWIC card), or be escorted by someone who does.  For the convenience of importers who do not have a TWIC card, the Port of Tacoma has published a list of TWIC card holders who have advised their willingness to make themselves available (for a price) to escort importers or their agents who are picking up vehicles.  The business details of such arrangements are strictly between the importer or agent and the escort, and prices are not regulated by the Port (or anyone else).  Typically, the escort will meet the importer or agent at the marine terminal where the vehicle is located.  (Stop #2 below)

3.      Several states (including Washington) require the importer of a used motor vehicle to present documentary evidence that the vehicle was legally imported, before the state licensing authorities will issue a vehicle title and/or registration.  Washington (and at least some other states) have adopted a formal policy that the only document they will accept for this purpose is a copy of CBP Form 7501 (the “Entry Summary”) showing vehicle information, and annotated with a US Customs seal and the signature of a Customs officer.  If an importer or agent does not arrange for US Customs to annotate a copy of the Form 7501 for the imported vehicle in this manner, the destination state’s licensing agency may refuse to issue a vehicle title and/or registration.  To avoid this potential problem, TCB recommends that, before leaving the port area, all used motor vehicle importers stop at the Tacoma waterfront Customs office to have Customs inspect their vehicle and annotate the CBP Form 7501.  (Stop #3 below)  Note: Customs will not provide a copy of the CBP form 7501 for this purpose.  It is the responsibility of the importer, or importer’s agent, to bring at least one copy of the 7501 containing full details about the shipment. 

As part of our basic services for used vehicle importers, TCB normally provides (in electronic form) a copy of the shipment and customs clearance documents for each used vehicle we handle for a client.  We strongly recommend that the importer – or agent who will pick up the vehicle on behalf of the importer – have a printout of a full set of these documents, including at least one copy of the CBP Form 7501 for the imported vehicle, for presentation when stopping at the Customs office.

Also, for used motor vehicles imported from Japan, Customs will normally want to look at the original Japanese vehicle export certificate, which is issued by the Japanese government on distinctive colored paper.  The importer or agent should arrange to bring this to the Customs office as part of the documentation package for Customs review.

At the Customs office, the officer will normally verify that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) listed on the documents matches that on the vehicle, and that the vehicle description on the customs entry (sedan, coupe, truck, etc.) matches the type of vehicle presented.  The printouts of the shipment and customs clearance documents will usually answer most types of questions likely to be asked.

Locations to stop:

1.  Port of Tacoma, breakbulk terminals customer service office (previously located at East Blair Terminal)

3320 East 11th Street

Tacoma, WA  98421

Tel: 253-383-9424 or 253-383-9427 (calling ahead is recommended)

Confirm that your vehicle is fully released in the Port’s records, and verify whether the Port will waive its vehicle import tariff charge.  If the Port does not waive this charge, the charge will usually be collected here.

2.  Port of Tacoma, East Blair Terminal (EB-1) – most vehicles are available here; TCB can advise any exceptions

2940 East Alexander Avenue Tacoma, WA  98421

Hours: 7:30 am – 12:00 noon, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday

If you have scheduled a TWIC card holder to escort you while on the terminal, this is where the escort will normally meet you.  (This should be confirmed when scheduling the escort.)  This is also where you will actually pick up the vehicle.

3.  US Customs, Tacoma waterfront office

2200 Port of Tacoma Road

Tacoma, WA  98421

Tel: 253-593-6336 (calling ahead is recommended, to verify an officer will be available)

Email: gmb.seattleexport@cbp.dhs.gov

Hours: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Monday – Friday

Present the vehicle and documents to US Customs.  When the examining officer is satisfied, ask the officer to annotate at least one copy of the CBP Form 7501 with a US Customs seal and signature, as evidence that the vehicle was legally imported.

If you are an agent picking up the vehicle for the actual importer, it is very important that the document package, especially the copy (or copies) of the CBP Form 7501, and the original Japanese export certificate on colored paper (if applicable) be delivered either to the actual importer, or to a third party if directed by the actual importer.

Any TCB client who encounters any questions or issues at any of these locations should call the Transmark Customs Brokers office at 253-893-7400.  We will be glad to assist.