Canada Border Services Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Information Notice

Offload Policy for Highway Examinations

The Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) offload policy applies to commercial highway shipments.

Under the Customs Act, carriers must present their goods to an officer for examination if requested. As part of this process, carriers must remove, as appropriate, any covering from goods, unload any conveyance or open any part of the conveyance, and unpack any package or container that the officer wishes to examine. All persons reporting goods are responsible for all costs related to unloading and reloading their conveyance.

Under the CBSA's time standard, goods must be presented for examination within two hours. If you do not present your goods within this time frame, you may be assessed a penalty under the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) for failing to report your goods (administrative monetary penalty C026). Details on administrative monetary penalties can be found in the AMPS Master Penalty Document.

To advance responsible border management and as a convenience to carriers, the CBSA has arranged for a pre-approved offload service provider to be available at a number of the high-volume designated commercial offices to offload vehicles selected for examination in a timely and efficient manner. The rates can be found at: Offload Rates.

With the approval of the examining officer, carriers may perform the offload themselves or engage another service provider of their choice to do this; however, health, safety and security requirements of the port must be respected.

Some of the factors that the examining officer may consider when approving an alternate arrangement include but are not limited to the following: the carrier or other provider must supply the appropriate equipment to safely perform the offload, the carrier or other provider is qualified to safely operate the equipment, the carrier or other provider is insured to cover damages to property or people.

Why is my shipment being examined?

Border services officers target shipments for further examination to ensure that shipments entering Canada are safe and secure. If a shipment is examined, this does not necessarily mean that criminal activity is involved.

The CBSA may choose to examine your shipment for several reasons:

  • to detect prohibited or restricted items (e.g. pornography, narcotics) or smuggled goods;
  • to fulfill the requirements of other government departments (e.g. meat inspections, import permits); or
  • to ensure that the goods comply with customs legislation (e.g. to verify that the description, value, quantity and markings of the goods match the information on the invoice).

How do I present my goods?

The CBSA is committed to processing commercial shipments as quickly and as efficiently as possible. An offload service provider can ensure that carriers have their shipments offloaded and reloaded in a routine fashion and meet their obligations in a timely manner.

With the approval of the examining officer, carriers may perform the offload themselves or engage another service provider of their choice to do this; however, health, safety and security requirements of the port must be respected.

Some of the factors that the examining officer may consider when approving an alternate arrangement include but are not limited to the following: the carrier or other provider must supply the appropriate equipment to safely perform the offload, the carrier or other provider is qualified to safely operate the equipment and the carrier or other provider is insured to cover all liabilities.

CBSA pre-approved offload service providers are available at a number of the high-volume designated commercial offices. These service providers are bonded and carry the appropriate liability insurance.

CBSA pre-approved offload service providers will undertake the following:

  • hire security-cleared labourers;
  • guarantee that a minimum of one labourer per offload has the valid licences/certificates and proper training designation to operate offloading equipment;
  • provide all equipment and supplies required for conducting offloads and reloads, including forklifts;
  • be on site during core hours and at all other times report to the site within two hours (in this case, the carrier's requirement to finalize arrangements with a service provider and present goods for examination within two hours will only start once the CBSA pre-approved service provider reports to the designated commercial office); and
  • offer competitive fixed pricing for offload services and payment options (e.g. cash, credit card, debit, standing account).

What offices are staffed by the pre-approved offload service provider?

The pre-approved offload service provider maintains a presence at a number of the high-volume designated commercial offices:

  • St. Stephen, N.B.
  • Woodstock, N.B.
  • Lacolle, Que.
  • Lansdowne, Ont.
  • Niagara Falls, Ont. (Queenston Bridge)
  • Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge)
  • Windsor, Ont. (Ambassador Bridge)
  • Sarnia, Ont. (Blue Water Bridge)
  • Emerson, Man.
  • Coutts, Alta.
  • Osoyoos, B.C.
  • Kingsgate, B.C.
  • Huntingdon, B.C
  • Pacific Highway, B.C.

What are my options if I am identified for an examination and the pre-approved offload service provider is not available at this location?

The pre-approved offload service provider does not maintain a presence at all locations. With the approval of the examining officer, carriers may either perform the offload themselves or engage another service provider to perform the offload. It is recommended that carriers have the contact information of a local service provider that will perform an on-call offload in the event their shipment is identified for examination.

What can I do if my goods were damaged?

In the event that your shipment has been damaged, please consult the following scenarios:

  • If the shipment was damaged during transportation, please contact your carrier to discuss its claims procedure.
  • If the shipment was damaged during the offload/reload process the carrier is responsible for initiating a claim with the offload service provider. The offload service provider is responsible for damage it causes and will note any damage in writing.
  • If you would like to discuss a specific incident or claim with the offload service provider, the contact information is as follows:
  • If the goods were damaged during the examination process the carrier is responsible for advising the Port Superintendent on duty. CBSA staff is also responsible for monitoring the offload/reload process and noting any damage.

Who is responsible for any possible damage to CBSA installations?

The carrier is responsible for any damage to CBSA installations resulting from offloading unless the carrier used the services of the CBSA pre-approved offload service provider.

What legal authority does the CBSA have to examine my shipments?

Section 99 of the Customs Act authorizes the CBSA to conduct examinations of commercial shipments.

Why is there a cost for offloading shipments?

Section 13 of the Customs Act requires carriers to present the goods to the officer, remove any covering from the goods, unload any conveyance or open any part of the conveyance, or open or unpack any package or container that the officer wishes to examine.

Where can I get more information?

Canada: 1-800-461-9999
Outside Canada: 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064
Web site