Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection (AQI) user fees

In March 2003, certain AQI functions were transferred from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of the Department of Homeland Security.  Whilst APHIS agricultural inspectors were transferred to CBP, APHIS continues to set policy and conditions required for travelers’ entry and commodity and product importation and to collect the user fees to pay for APHIS and CBP activities related to AQI functions.

Subject to inspection are commercial vessels of 100 net tons or more arriving at ports of entry in the customs territory of the United States.

The applicable APHIS user fee is USD 496.00. This will increase to USD 825 as of 28 December 2015. 

Vessel owners / operators pay a user fee for the first 15 arrivals at ports within a calendar year (1 January to 31 December) i.e. max USD 7,440.00. Important: As from 28 December 2015 the fee cap will be removed.

The following categories of commercial vessels are exempt from paying an AQI user fee:

  1. Foreign passenger vessels making at least three trips a week from a port in the United States to the high seas (including ‘‘cruises to nowhere’’) and returning to the same port in the United States, not having touched any foreign port or place other than in Canada, or taken on any stores other than in Canada;  

  2. Any vessel which, at the time of arrival, is being used solely as a tugboat;  

  3. Vessels used exclusively in the governmental service of the United States or a foreign government, including any agency or political subdivision of the United States or a foreign government, so long as the vessel is not carrying persons or merchandise for commercial purposes;  

  4. Vessels arriving in distress or to take on bunkers, sea stores, or ship’s stores;  

  5. Tugboats towing vessels on the Great Lakes; and  

  6. Any vessel which sails only between United States and Canadian ports, when the Master of such vessel arriving from Canada certifies, in the ‘‘Particulars of Voyage’’ block of the Vessel Entrance or Clearance Statement, CBP Form 1300, that the vessel has sailed solely between the United States and Canada for the previous 2 years.

Members should note that vessels are not necessarily inspected on each arrival, but when inspected, all cargo is examined, in addition to ship's stores and waste facilities.

Although the inspections are not related to a service provided to (or for) the vessel, but rather are aimed at protecting the United States from exotic pests and diseases not known to occur in the US, BIMCO is of the opinion that these fees are to be considered as ordinary port expenses. 

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