There are two types of cargo auctions for products imported into the United States–abandoned cargo and seized cargo. Public auctions may be on-line or live in-person.
Abandoned cargo is cargo that has never been collected by the importer at its ports of entry. It is largely the result of disputes between the shipper and consignee; as a consignee be sure you know all of your terms and conditions when shipping.
The steamship companies usually file a lien against the cargo for their charges; sometimes they get it and sometimes they do not. Many times the shipper has control of the cargo since they have the original ocean bills of lading in their possession. Ocean bills of lading are negotiable documents. The return cost for the cargo may be greater than the actual cost of the goods. Many abandoned shipments are “Freight Collect” so the shipper is not out of pocket for the freight charges.
If cargo is not claimed 10 days after the vessel arrives, it goes into General Order Storage (GO). If unclaimed after a year, then it is put up for auction. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has authorized EG&G/CWS Marketing and Rod Robertson Enterprises to auction off CBP general order merchandise and seized and forfeited property. All proceeds from the auction of general order merchandise and vehicles are returned to the government.
CBP sells the abandoned or unclaimed merchandise. The live West-coast abandoned cargo auctions take place at the Marriott Hotel in Long Beach, California through the management company CWS Marketing. Live auctions are held a both Long Beach, California and and Carteret, New Jersey four times a year. Online auctions are available six times per year. The contact for abandoned cargo auctions is Sean Fraley, Sales Manager, CWS Marketing (888-343-1313 x 256; 714-264-5740; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.cwsmarketing.com/
For the current schedule of auctions, please see the websites listed below:
- EG&G Services/CWS Marketing auctions (general merchandise)
- Rod Robertson Enterprises (vehicles valued less than $10,000)
- VSE Warehouse (vehicles valued greater than $10,000)
Effective March 1, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) will use the Department of Justice website www.forfeiture.gov as the primary method to notify the public that property was seized and is subject to forfeiture. This site will post property for 30 days from date of publication. The Department of Homeland Security authorized this action in accordance with 19 CFR Part 162, as published in the January 29, 2013, Federal Register.
The CBP Officer that seized the property should have forwarded the case to the appropriate supervisor for approval within 24 hours. The case is then referred to the Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures (FP&F) office within three working days. FP&F Officers will send the suspected violator or all other interested parties a notice of seizure. Any questions or concerns regarding a case should be addressed to the FP&F at the port of entry where the property was seized. If you have a seizure number, please provide it when you call.
The live West-coast seized cargo auctions take place in Riverside, California through the management company VSE. VSE is located at 6711 Sycamore Canyon Blvd., Riverside, CA 92507 and their phone number is 312-440-2000 (contact name is Joel). You can preview the goods in advance but verify the hours in which viewing is open. In the past, the hours for viewing goods were two days prior to the auction from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. See the flyer below for an auction announcement example.
For seized cargo and other U.S. Government auctions, visit Rick Levin & Associates, Inc. at http://www.ricklevin.com/home.aspx. The firm, in conjunction with VSE Corporation, conducts seized and forfeited property auctions on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and other participating agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, United States Secret Service, United States Coast Guard and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.