Understanding the Differences: A Look at Imports Exports and Domestic Freight Regulations for US and International

Sep 12, 2019 | Education

When it comes to importing, exporting, and dealing with domestic freight, the differences are vast. Seriously, we create intelligent software to handle this stuff for a living, and we’re not afraid to let you know that we think it can be incredibly complicated. In fact, that level of complexity and intricacy is exactly why Magaya exists, in the first place—but more on that part later.

Like we were saying, dealing with import, export, and freight regulations can be tricky enough.

Not only do you have paperwork to deal with, third-party companies to vet, live-tracking guarantees to sort through, but you also have a tangle of fees, documentation, duties, and more to handle. Tack on the big jumble of differences in regulation between international and the U.S. and you’ve got yourself a pretty big mess.

The good news? You’re not alone in thinking this. In fact, that’s exactly why we exist. In other words—we’re here to help.

As an importer, exporter, business owner, logistics manager—whichever title you claim (maybe more than one, even) you’re probably already pretty well-versed in a lot of these rules and regulations.

In other words, you don’t need us to go through every little detail with you explaining what the basic differences are between importing and exporting and domestic freight. But we can help with is spelling out the differences in regulations among those three types of things. Then, we’ll take it a step further and explain the specific differences between U.S. and international regulations, too. In fact, we’re going to take it a step further and explain to you the regulatory differences via air, sea, and land travel, too.

Translation? Buckle up—we’re about to dive deep into the regulatory differences you’ve always wanted to understand.

Let’s Talk Regulations: U.S. Policies Vs. International Policies

At Magaya, we find the best way to really dive into this information is to first break it down to the basics, so, that’s precisely what we plan to do.

Basic Overview—U.S. Policies for Land and Sea

For importing and exporting into and out of the United States, there are several guidelines, rules, and regulations you’ll need to follow—in fact, there’s about a 200-page document (linked here) from the government that can dive super in-depth for you, but we’re just going to summarize:

  • When importing or exporting to and from the United States, it’s more than just encouraged to get cargo and inventory information to U.S. customs before their deadline, it’s imperative.
  • You’ll need to file quickly and efficiently with Electronic Export Information (EEI) through the Automated Export System (AES).
  • You’ll need to determine full-container load (FCL) cargo vs less than container load (LCL) cargo, file that information properly, and abide by those specific regulations.
  • Manage carrier rates and contracts
  • Handle and manage all applicable charges, tariffs, taxes, and duties
  • Manage and handle all paperwork and filing like Air Waybills, Bills of Lading, Inventory Sheet, EEI, Dock Receipts, and more.

Basic Overview—International Policies for Land and Sea (Latin America Edition) 

For starters, let’s acknowledge this: speaking about international rules and regulations can get pretty dang tricky because, well, let’s just say it—the world is a big, confusing place, and everyone has their own regulations. So, for simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on just a smattering of countries—for this example, we’ll talk about Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

Let’s Talk Panama:

  • Panama assesses import duties on an ad valorem basis—which means they declare a duty tax based on the estimated value of whatever’s being imported and exported.
  • In addition, all imports into Panama are subject to a 7 percent transfer or value-added tax (called an ITBM) which is levied on the CIF value
  • Plus any other included import duty or handling charges
  • As a fun fact, about 87 percent of product from the US enter into Panama duty-free because pharmaceuticals, foods, and school supplies are exempt from the previously mentioned ITBM tax.
  • The exemptions and charges are a long, lengthy list, so Panama officials suggest if you’re importing, check this databasefor a better look at the rules.
  • The major seaports in Panama are Manzanillo International Terminal, Colon Container Terminal, Cristobal, Balboa, and PSA Panama International Terminal


  • The following documentation is required for imports into Ecuador: commercial invoice, original copy of the bill lading or airway bill, insurance policy in accordance with the Insurance Law, the Income Tax Registry Number (RUC), the certificate of origin when applicable (to qualify for tariff preferences, and the INEN-1 cert (when needed).
  • Shipments, both imports and exports, must include detailed weigh information, like net weight and individual gross weight of each product.
  • Special labeling must be in Spanish for imports and exports.
  • The payments of duties and the release of the goods must be done via a virtual platform called the Ventanilla Unica
  • The major ports in Ecuador include four commercial, state-owned ports, the rest are private, among them are Bolivar, Guayaquil, Manta, The Port of Esmeraldas, and the Conscorio Puerto Nuevo Milenium S.A.


  • Mexican importers and exporters must be registered and listed with the Official Register of Importers.
  • Mexico requires that all import and export documentation include a completed pedimento for all commercial crossing—this document must be in Spanish and accompanied by a commercial invoice (also in Spanish), a bill of lading, documents demonstrating a guarantee of payment of additional duties, and documents demonstrating compliance with Mexican product safety regulations.
  • Importer and exporter must assume all responsibility for their paperwork.
  • The major ports in Mexico are Port of Manzanillo, Port of Lazaro Cardenas, Port of Veracrus, Port of Altamira, and the Port of Ensenda.

Costa Rica:

  • Specific imports and exports—like arms and munitions—require a license from the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security Department.
  • Drugs, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and some chemicals must have import permits that are valid for five years and be registered with the Ministry of Health.
  • Food products require registration when imported or exported for the first time.
  • The major ports in Costa Rica are Port Limon and Port of Caldera.

How Magaya Can Help with the Confusion – And Get Your Cargo Where it Needs to Go

This is the part where we spell out how Magaya can help in a very real, concrete way. Our software is uniquely designed to help those who need to import, export, or use domestic freight to get their cargo from point A to point B, sans complications.

When it comes to imports, you can use our software to either take direct control of the import yourself or use our software to find a business partner within our own private Magaya network to help with the process – all done within the Magaya system.

If you’re selling goods to entities outside of the country and you need to control the export of that cargo, you can do, well the exact same thing—use our software to track and control that export, or work with someone within our Magaya Network to get the job done correctly.

Further, the Magaya software can help you keep your cargo on track at all times—even before you send it off. With Magaya, you can track and complete the paperwork that needs to be filed on time and with the correct entities, like Customs, book the correct type of cargo space (FCL or LCL) for your exports or imports, automate charges and set up tariffs, and partner with freight forwarders by exchanging data via the Magaya system.

Find yourself dealing with customs via air, land, or sea? Or, specifically with ocean-related imports or exports? No problem—we can help with our diverse set of plug-ins that help to deal with compliances set by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security, the Automated Commercial Environment (formerly known as the AES), Importer Security Filing,  ABI Integration, the Automated Manifest System, and more.

At Magaya, we’re proud to create functional and logistical software that doesn’t just help you automate your business, but also helps you to improve your workflow dramatically. Sure, being in the business of importing, exporting, and domestic freight transporting can be confusing—but that’s why we’re here to help. Our fundamental goal is to simplify our customers’ logistical chain by solving any and all problems that might arise—we’re not just the solution to one problem, rather, the solution to all of your logistical problems.

Find yourself asking more questions about the rules and regulations that go hand-in-hand with importing, exporting, and more? You’re not alone.


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