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The Customs Computer is Down


The government computer that serves the Customs department is down.
The Customs Broker’s own computer is down.

Either way, your freight cannot be cleared.


  1. The carrier advises us that they cannot obtain clearance for your freight because the Customs computer is down.
  2. We will try to determine whether it is the government’s computer or the Customs Broker’s computer, and whether the problem is system-wide, or a partial failure that is confined to specific offices or Ports of Entry.
  3. If it is a partial failure, we will investigate whether it is possible to clear your freight through a remote office – sometimes this is possible, and sometimes it is not.


Without functioning computers, nothing can be processed, and nothing will move.

If it the problem is with the Customs Broker’s computer, they will search for a temporary work-around, such as clearing the freight through one of their other offices that does functioning computer capability, or accessing Customs via another Customs Broker, acting as an agent. If a temporary work-around cannot be found, then there will be delays.

If the problem is with the Customs agency’s government computer, then nothing can be processed, and neither trucks nor freight will move until the problem is resolved. The only possible exception is northbound freight into Canada than happens to be with a carrier that is Bonded by Canada Customs: depending on the nature of the computer malfunction, it may be possible for Customs to put the freight In Bond for inland clearance, so that at least the truck can leave the border and move to an inland Customs facility that is closer to the freight’s ultimate destination.


In the age of Information Technology, we are all captive to the computers and servers we rely on almost every minute of every day. When they stop working, so do we. And there is nothing we can to do other than wait.


After a delay of a few minutes to as much as several hours, the computer problem will be fixed. There will then be a further delay while the backlog of un-processed freight entries is cleared. The driver will have to be paid for waiting time at the border, and this charge will be passed on to the customer as an hourly fee, with no free time subtracted. As with delays caused by lengthy border cargo inspections and de-vanning, this cost is regarded as an infrequent incidental cost of doing international business. It accrues to the account of the entity doing business, rather than to the carrier or broker.