Importing a Chang Jiang by Tom Denison

Here’s a rather long version of my experience so far importing my CJ.   My bike was completed in the middle of March of this year, and was shipped around April 17.

The shipping company supplied the name of Dolphin Logistics, a shipping broker in Los Angeles, the port of entry.  I contacted them to get the process started.  First order of business was a Power of Attorney form, to give them authority to act on my behalf.  I was very clear with them (I thought) that I was new to this importation thing, and that was why I hired them, and would probably have a lot of questions.


Next was an important document, the ISF (Importation Security Filing), which was supposed to be completed before the bike left China.  This was the first concern, as they did not get it completed until just before the ship arrived in LA.  I had a communication problem with the gentleman assigned to my import.  I dealt with him through email and telephone, and it was obvious to me that English was not his strong suit.  I believe that Dolphin Logistics is affiliated with the shipping company in China, as everyone I communicated with there did not understand or answer my questions much of the time.  The ISF issue was tossed back and forth via email, I filled out a couple different versions of the form (which were almost identical), and finally got all the info they needed, which I believe they should have been able to do on their end anyway.  The ISF is very important to get filed on time, it didn’t get filed until the ship was in LA and I got bagged for a $100.00 late filing fee.


Another thing to keep in mind is the definition of “Personal Effect”.  Tony, my broker at DL, asked me early on if the bike was a personal effect.  I said it was, as I thought he was asking if the motorcycle was my personal property, not merchandise I was importing to resell.  In US Customs language, “Personal Effect” means personal property that you have accumulated while living abroad that you wish to bring back with you to the US when you return home.  I finally figured this out on my own by the question being asked on the forms I was filling out, such as where was I living abroad, how long was I living there, what my job was here in the US, etc.  I had left those items blank, and Customs kicked them back.  I emailed Tony and explained, and then there was a couple of other forms to fill out, seeing as how the bike was not a “personal effect”.  This detail caused quite a bit of confusion and wasted time filling out forms which turned out to be unnecessary.  You need to pay a duty (3% of the purchase price of the bike) when it arrives.  There is no duty paid on personal effects.


Gerald at LRM sent me the Bill of Lading, list of crate contents , bill of sale, and title of the bike via DHL after it left China.  I  forwardedthe BOL, contents list, and BOS to Tony, as they are needed to clear Customs.

At his point when I looked at the BOL, I noticed that it gave the final destination port as Portland, USA…not Portland, MAINE, USA.  I contacted Gerald, he contacted the shipping company, and sure enough, they thought the only Portland in the USwas Portland, Oregon, and that’s where my bike was headed.  Luckily, the ship had made a stop at another port before leaving China, and that window of opportunity allowed us to fix the problem.  It’s not coming to Portland, but Boston, which is only 1 hours further than Portland.  Whew.  Glad I looked carefully at the BOL.

Tony sent me a DOT form to fill out, on which you state that the bike is too old to have to comply with Bumper safety (?) and anti-theft (?) standards.  At the bottom of the DOT form is a statement saying that if you have filled this form out you must also fill out an EPA form #3520-1.  When I asked Tony about it, he said it wasn’t necessary.  I had been advised on the discussion board that it WAS needed, so I found it online, filled it out and sent it to Tony.  I don’t know if he submitted it or not, but I think he had to.   


One thing that can happen and you have no control over it, is that Customs can pull a container for further inspection, and everyone with cargo in that container has to pay their share of the inspection fee.  Containers get x-rayed at the port of entry, and if something doesn’t look right, Customs will open the container.  This happened to my container, and I had to pay extra for the CET (Contraband Enforcement Team) exam.  This also delayed the shipment by three or four days.  If they DO find contraband, you will be waiting for your bike for a very long time   If they open the crate containing your bike, you will pay another fee for that privilege.


As I said, I had no experience with importing, but I expected that the broker would ask me for all my pertinent information (which includes your passport # or SSN), and since I had given them power of attorney, they would fill out and submit all the forms on schedule.  Why else would you need to submit a POA?  My opinion is that if there had not been a misunderstanding about “personal effect”, the only thing I would have had to do was forward the BOL, BOS and packing list to them.  Maybe that’s just a fantasy, but what did I pay Dolphin Logistics for?


When my bike arrived in Boston, the crate was damaged.  It had obviously been opened very carelessly, and the bike had sustained some damage.  The top of the createhad been removed and one side had been taken off.  The bubble wrap had been torn away from the bike, and Customs had applied tape stating that it had been inspected.  They did not replace the bubble wrap.  They put the side of the crate in place and held it in place with a few pieces of stretch wrap.  The top of the crate was placed on top and not secured in any way.  It had fallen in on top of the bike, damaging the handlebars.  We had to put straps around the crate to hold it together, and secure the top with straps so it wouldn’t blow off on the trip home.   

Here’s a list of the documents I submitted for importation. I did not include the unnecessary ones that I filled out due to the confusion.


Power of Attorney, ISF, Copy of SS card, Copies of IRS tax return, Copy of driver’s license, Bill of Lading, Bill of Sale, Packing List, DOT form, EPA form.


It’s not a huge amount of stuff, and if you get a good broker, I’m sure it won’t be nearly as stressful for you as it was for me.  Again, I think if you are close to the port of entry, and speak with a Customs person regularly, you may be able to do it yourself.


Attached is the final bill for the charges to clear the bike through Customs in LA.. I still don’t know what DL charges, even though I asked Tony that question several times.  I’m all paid up though, and I decided not to challenge the late filing fee.  Chalk it up to experience.


If your bike is coming into Los Angeles, I would avoid Dolphin Logistics if you hire a broker.  There may be a member of the CJE discussion group who can recommend someone else.