Freight shipping and storage is often confusing. If you have more questions about freight management, we encourage you to peruse our list of resources listed below. Here, you’ll find information about pertinent freight news, frequently asked questions, customs warehouse bonding, and more.

What is a C.E.S?

C.E.S is an acronym which stands for Centralized Examination Station. It is a designated warehousing operation that is equipped to unload import containers or handle import cargo under the supervision of US Government personnel. Approved by congress in the mid 1980s C.E.S’s were established nationwide by 1988.

Can anyone who owns a warehouse become a C.E.S.?

In order to qualify to become a designated C.E.S, a warehouse operator must undergo intense scrutiny by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP has very strict requirements with regards to operational facilities, personnel and security. Once these requirements are met then the warehouse operator is required to submit a proposal to CBP.

Are there any additional expenses involved to become an accredited C.E.S?

CBP is very strict about minimum bond amounts and insurance that the C.E.S. has to cover. These bonds and insurance policies are required to be in place, both to protect the importer and to protect the U.S Taxpayer should the warehouseman violate any of the Government regulations.

Are qualified warehouse operators automatically approved?

Even though operators may have passed US Customs and Border Protection’s rigorous requirements, the request is submitted to the public for approval. Proposed rates and hours of operation, amongst other criteria are examined by the trade. Should there be no objections the contract for the C.E.S. is generally awarded.

Is the C.E.S. license perpetual?

No. Most C.E.S licenses are awarded for 3 years at which stage the operator has to resubmit his application.

Are all C.E.S Stations identical?

Although the basic functions of all C.E.S Stations are the same, differing equipment and facilities lend themselves to handling different types of cargo more efficiently and cost effectively.

Tip: Before designating cargo to go to a particular C.E.S check the handling capacity for your product.

Can a C.E.S License be revoked?

This is an extremely rare situation. However in the case of negligence or continual breach of the regulations, US Customs and Border Protection does have the right to review the license and revoke it.

Is there more than one C.E.S in a given port?

Usually the major ports in the US have several C.E.S stations. This is done to allow competition in the industry as well as provide sufficient capacity to handle the amount of examinations that US Customs and Border Protection requires.

Tip: Check the rates of the C.E.S. you are designating before sending the cargo. Not all rates are the same.

What other Agencies make use of the C.E.S Stations?

• CSPC Consumer Product Safety Commission
• DEA Drug Enforcement Administration
• F&W Fish and Wildlife Service
• FDA US Food and Drug Administration
• USDA United States Department of Agriculture

Which are the C.E.S Stations that service Houston and the Gulf Region?

• World Trade Distribution Code S903
• Gulf Winds International Code V607
• St. George Warehouse Code V209

Are there different types of exams?

There are many different reasons that a US Government agency may choose to examine cargo prior to allowing entry into the United States:

  • CET Exam: Security and Contraband
  • Trade Exams: Duty, Product compliance, Copyright, USDA, FDA, F&W
  • VACIS: Vehicle and Cargo Inspections which allows CBP to see inside the container using sophisticated imaging technology without having to open the container and remove the cargo.

Can I choose which C.E.S Station I designate?

That depends on the type of exam that CBP requires.

  • US Customs and Border Protection will designate a location for SECURITY Exams – this cannot be changed.
  • The broker or importer can CHOOSE to designate the location of any trade exam.

Tip: See further in the booklet for tips on how to choose a C.E.S

My cargo has been designated for an exam, what do I do?

Determine the type of exam that is required. If it is a CET (Security or Contraband Exam) or VACIS Exam arrange for the dray to the location designated by CBP.

Can I ignore the exam and move the cargo anyway?

No. CBP and other government agencies are required to protect the interest of the US Government and people from illegal imports and imports that could damage or harm the citizens of this country. All exam designations MUST be sent to an approved site.

What if it is a Trade Exam?

Establish your criteria for choosing which C.E.S. you or your client would incur the least expense with the most efficient completion time.

Tip: C.E.S. rate sheets are published. Check these costs.

What other costs may be involved?

The costs of the actual CBP Examination are published and approved by US Customs and Border Protection. These rates are fixed. Often times some C.E.S. operators may bill for additional services that are not part of the published rate sheets.

Note: There is no provision for fuel surcharges if the container is drayed to the C.E.S by the C.E.S operator.

Tip: Check the TOTAL cost of the exam before making your decision. That would be the dray, plus the exam, plus any other fees. Add them all together to be sure you have taken into account all costs that will be incurred.

Do these prices include curing a violation?

Due to the fact there may be extensive rework of the cargo and at the time of exam designation the nature of the violation is unknown, it is impossible to include these costs at the time of the original exam.

Tip: Be sure that the C.E.S. Station you designate can handle most reworks at reasonable cost BEFORE designating a location. You do not want to have to move the cargo again or pay huge rework fees.

Will my demurrage stop when I send my cargo to a C.E.S. to be examined?

That depends on where you choose to send it.

  • If the C.E.S. Station is on port property the demurrage does not stop when it is drayed to the C.E.S. Station for examination.
  • If the C.E.S. is off port property the demurrage will stop the minute the container leaves port grounds.

Does this mean that if I designate the C.E.S. to a location on port property and the exam takes several days that I will be liable for demurrage for that time period?


Will I be liable for Per Diem no matter where I designate the exam take place?

Yes. Therefore it is best that you choose a C.E.S. where you have confidence the handling and examination will be expedited.

Tip. If you are aware of problems with the shipment, whether they are paperwork or compliance issues, instruct the C.E.S. to unload the cargo and return the container to the steamship line. It will usually turn out being cheaper in the long run.

What criteria other than cost or efficiency should I look at?

  • If the cargo is unloaded at destination and is damaged, do you have any way to go back and see what happened during the exam?
  • Does the facility have the ability to unload the cargo onto a van so that per diem can be stopped and the cargo can be delivered in a van?
  • Does the C.E.S. have the equipment and knowledge to restow that container without damaging the cargo?
  • Does the C.E.S. have the equipment to block and brace cargo when restowing it?

Tip: Sometimes cargo,, after being removed from a container, requires reblocking and bracing as it does not match the same configuration when repacking.

What is the process of moving cargo through a C.E.S.?

Decide which C.E.S. Station you want to use based on the criteria above.
Enter the designated C.E.S. code in Block 29 of the CF3461
Forward the “permit to transfer” to the C.E.S. along with a delivery order.

Tip: Call the C.E.S. to be sure they have received your documentation

Check the C.E.S. computerized tracking system the next day to be sure the cargo is at the exam site.
Regularly check the computerized tracking system to monitor the status of your exam.
Upon release of the cargo immediately issue instructions to deliver the cargo or container to your customer.
Be sure you have received all charges for the exam immediately after release so you can bill your customer.

Tip: It may be more cost effective to transload the cargo to a van for delivery by the C.E.S. trucker and return the container to stop the per diem charge accumulating.

If cargo is not released in a reasonable period of time contact the C.E.S. response line for updated information.

What happens if an issue arises upon inspection?

  • CBP officers will usually contact the broker directly.
  • Once the nature of the issue is established with CBP, discuss the options for curing the violation with the C.E.S. manager.
  • Obtain a quote from the C.E.S. manager for the rework required and request a time frame for completion of the project.

Tip: It may be best at this time to unload the cargo and return the container to the steamship line. This will stop the per diem charges. Compare the costs of per diem to those of unloading and storage.

  • Forward the quote to your customer immediately to get approval to begin the rework.
    Upon approval from your customer, fax or email an authorization to rework to the C.E.S. manager.
  • Monitor the rework progress and upon release instruct the trucker to deliver the cargo as soon as possible.
  • What are the responsibilities of the C.E.S once the container arrives on site?
  • The C.E.S. operator is responsible to immediately notify CBP or the relevant agency of the availability of the cargo for inspection.
  • CBP will designate what type of exam is required and how much of the cargo they wish to examine.
  • The operator is now responsible to ensure the examination is done timely, safely, with no damage, at the designated costs.
  • The C.E.S. operator must notify the broker of the charges, release and free time expiration.

Tip: It is useful to constantly monitor the web based tracking to see the status of a shipment

Can I contact CBP at the C.E.S. facility directly?

Yes. There are direct numbers which are answered by these officials.

Tip: Remember that CBP has many containers to examine. Constant phone calls and interruptions tend to delay the exams. It is best to use the online tracking systems and C.E.S. response lines rather than interrupting CBP personnel during the exams.

What are the direct contact numbers for CBP at the C.E.S?

World Trade Distribution

  • (713) 672-6866
  • (713) 672-6876
  • (713) 672-6890
  • (713) 672-6978
  • (713) 672-6980


  • (713) 672-7320


St. George Warehouse

Office: (281) 474-5700
Fax: (281) 291-7948

What are some of the events that may delay my examination?

The most common hold-up to most exams is the lack of a steamship release when the trucker goes to pick up the exam container.

Tip: Be very sure that the steamship release is in place before sending the trucker to pick up the container.

Permit to transfer not received or posted.

Tip: Always follow up the fax of the “permit to transfer” and delivery order with a phone call to the trucker

Can I arrange to tour a C.E.S?

Yes. Most C.E.S management would be pleased to arrange tours of their facilities as this encourages understanding and communication between the trade community and the C.E.S operators. Contact the C.E.S of your choice to arrange a visit.

Tip: When visiting a C.E.S be sure to ask to see how the flow of the process works so that you have an understanding of when each stage of the examination is due for completion.

How do I contact the C.E.S Stations in the Houston District?

World Trade Distribution

Firms Code: S903
Phone: (713) 672-7295

St. George Warehouse

Firms Code: V209
Phone: (281)474-5700


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World Trade Distribution Inc.
2222 N Wayside Dr
Houston, TX 77020