Screening Gaps for Foreign Shipments DamageUS Security and Economy, Study Says

Picture two packages.  They contain identical contents, were purchased from the same independent online retailer in Canada, and are shipped to the same US address. One distinguishing factor, however, is likely to determine whether or not they will be screened by US Customs and Border Protection.

Copenhagen Economics recently unveiled the results of a study on international packages inbound to the US and discovered stark differences between packages shipped by private carriers (like UPS and FedEx) and those shipped by foreign postal services (like Canada Post or China Post).  Their findings pointed to significant gaps in security as well as major economic losses.

The study involved 195 packages in total, divided evenly between private and public carriers and shipped from one of ten different countries to the US.  The packages sent by private carriers all underwent advance electronic security through the Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS).  Forty seven federal agencies have access to ACAS data, which is used to “target high risk packages being imported into the US.”  By contrast, foreign postal services are not required to enter package data into ACAS, meaning they enter the US uninspected.  This loophole could easily be exploited by criminal and terrorist elements attempting to send illicit or hazardous goods to the US undetected.

All of the packages contained consumer goods valued at over $200 as well, meaning they were subject to duties under US law.  Once again, 98% of the goods shipped by private carrier were declared as required, enabling US Customs and Border Protection to levy the appropriate duty. Foreign posts, on the other hand, declared a reported 0% of their packages, meaning the packages entered the US duty free.  If this trend is indicative of all inbound shipments to the US, Copenhagen Economics estimates that it could result in over one billion dollars in economic loss.

For more resources on the international shipment security or US Customs and Border Protection, visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (some resources may require HSDL login).




Article formerly posted at

Note: you may need to login to the HSDL to view some resources mentioned in the blog.

Need help finding something?  Ask our librarians for assistance!

Scroll to Top