Can An Importer Be Penalized For Not Submitting The Carrier’s SCAC Code In The ISF?

So you’re in the importing business and you’ve been hearing some chatter about penalties for not submitting the carrier’s SCAC code in the ISF. But what exactly does that mean? Well, the Importer Security Filing, or ISF, is a requirement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for importers to provide information about their cargo before it enters the country. And the SCAC code? That stands for Standard Carrier Alpha Code, which is a unique identifier assigned to transportation companies. Now, can you be penalized for not including this code in your ISF? Let’s find out.

Overview of Importer Security Filing (ISF)

Importing goods into the United States involves a complex set of regulations and requirements to ensure the safety and security of the country. One crucial aspect of this process is the Importer Security Filing (ISF), which aims to provide advance information about the inbound cargo to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The ISF helps CBP assess potential risks associated with imported goods, allowing them to take necessary security measures. It is vital for importers to understand the importance of compliance with ISF requirements to avoid penalties and ensure a smooth importation process.

Importance of Carrier’s SCAC Code in ISF

The Carrier’s Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) plays a significant role in the ISF filing. The SCAC uniquely identifies shipping carriers and is an essential element of the ISF. Including the correct SCAC code is crucial for accurate identification of the carrier involved in transporting the goods. It enables effective communication and information sharing between the importer, carrier, and CBP. Failing to submit the carrier’s SCAC code in the ISF can lead to serious consequences and penalties.

ISF Filing Requirements

Filing Timelines

Importers must submit the ISF at least 24 hours before the vessel’s departure to the U.S. port of arrival. This timeframe allows CBP to review the information and assess the potential risks associated with the inbound cargo in a timely manner. It is vital for importers to adhere to this timeline strictly to avoid delays or penalties.

ISF Elements

The ISF requires specific information about the imported goods, including the importer’s contact information, seller’s information, container stuffing location, and Harmonized System (HS) codes for the goods. Additionally, the ISF includes the carrier’s SCAC code, bill of lading number, sailing vessel name, and the port of loading. Each element provides valuable information to CBP for risk assessment and efficient cargo handling.

Consequences of Not Submitting Carrier’s SCAC Code in ISF

Failing to submit the carrier’s SCAC code in the ISF can have serious repercussions. CBP relies on accurate and complete information to identify and assess potential risks associated with imported cargo. Without the SCAC code, CBP may face challenges in obtaining accurate information about the carrier, hindering their ability to mitigate security risks effectively. As a result, your shipment may be delayed or denied entry into the country until the necessary information is provided.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Enforcement

CBP takes ISF compliance seriously and conducts thorough inspections to ensure adherence to the regulations. Failure to submit the carrier’s SCAC code in the ISF can result in CBP enforcement actions, including cargo examinations, fines, and even seizure of goods. It is crucial to prioritize compliance to maintain a positive relationship with CBP and avoid these severe consequences.

Monetary Penalties

Non-compliance with ISF requirements, including omitting the carrier’s SCAC code, can lead to significant monetary penalties. CBP has the authority to issue fines, which can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per violation. These penalties can quickly add up and have a substantial financial impact on importers who fail to comply with ISF regulations.

Process for Submitting the Carrier’s SCAC Code in ISF

Obtaining the SCAC Code

To include the correct SCAC code in the ISF, importers need to obtain this information from the carrier. The SCAC code is assigned by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and is unique to each carrier. It is crucial to ensure that the SCAC code obtained from the carrier is accurate and up to date.

Adding the Code to ISF

Once the SCAC code is obtained, it must be added to the ISF accurately. This can be done through the use of electronic filing systems, such as the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) or the ACE Secure Data Portal. Importers should double-check the accuracy of the code to avoid any potential errors that could lead to non-compliance.

Updating the Code if Necessary

If there are any changes to the carrier or the assigned SCAC code, it is essential to update the information in the ISF promptly. Keeping the information up to date ensures that CBP has the correct details and avoids any potential penalties or delays. Regular communication with the carrier is essential to stay informed of any changes that may require updating the SCAC code.

Exceptions to Submitting the Carrier’s SCAC Code

There are limited circumstances where an exception to submitting the carrier’s SCAC code in the ISF may apply. These exceptions typically arise when the shipment is transported by a carrier not specifically identified by an SCAC code or when the shipment is moved under a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) bill of lading. Importers should consult with CBP or their customs broker to determine if an exception is applicable to their specific situation.

Mitigation Measures for Non-Compliance


If an importer realizes they have made an error or omission in the ISF, including the carrier’s SCAC code, it is crucial to take immediate action. Self-disclosing the error to CBP demonstrates a commitment to compliance and can mitigate potential penalties. Importers should work closely with their customs broker to determine the appropriate steps for self-disclosure and rectifying the issue promptly.

Corrective Actions

Taking corrective actions to prevent future non-compliance is essential. Importers should review their internal processes and procedures to identify any areas of improvement. Implementing robust quality control measures, training programs, and regular audits can help ensure that ISF filings, including the carrier’s SCAC code, are accurate and compliant with regulations.

Industry Best Practices for ISF Compliance

Effective Communication with Carriers

Maintaining clear and open lines of communication with carriers is crucial for ISF compliance. Importers should establish a process to regularly obtain updated SCAC codes and notify carriers of any changes that may require updates to the ISF. Having open communication channels helps ensure that the correct information is included in the filing and avoids potential penalties.

Establishing Internal Procedures

Developing and implementing internal procedures for ISF compliance is essential for importers. These procedures should outline the steps to follow in obtaining the carrier’s SCAC code, adding it to the ISF accurately, and updating it when necessary. Regular training of personnel involved in the importation process is also critical to maintain compliance.

Collaborating with Customs Brokers

Working closely with a trusted customs broker can significantly aid in achieving ISF compliance. Customs brokers have expertise in navigating the complex import regulations and can provide valuable guidance and assistance in ensuring accurate ISF filings. Collaborating with a customs broker can help importers stay up to date with any changes in requirements and minimize the risk of non-compliance.


Compliance with the ISF requirements, including submitting the carrier’s SCAC code, is of utmost importance for importers. Failure to comply can result in serious consequences, including cargo delays, fines, and seizure of goods. Importers must understand the significance of accurate and timely ISF filings to ensure a smooth importation process and maintain a positive relationship with CBP. By adhering to best practices, establishing internal procedures, and collaborating with customs brokers, importers can mitigate the risk of non-compliance and streamline their import operations. It is crucial to prioritize ISF compliance and stay informed about any updates or changes to the regulations to minimize the potential impact of penalties.