Customs offices often stipulate a limited period for pick-up of shipments (7 days in Germany, for example). The support of local cooperation partners is therefore essential so the items are picked up in time and are not returned to the sender.
Please note that when sending goods abroad the Certificate of Shipment must state what to do in case that the item is undeliverable. It already happened that a sender abroad declared ‘treat as abandoned’, which is – speaking about artworks or design objects – out of discussion.
In the event that the goods remain at the customs office (or confusion persists), it is sometimes possible to resolve the matter by email and to have the shipment forwarded. The customs office usually covers the cost.
Dealing with authorities and customs personnel
The organization of a transport is associated with some administrative burden. One must not expect special treatment by the customs authorities for the transport of works of art, design objects or sensitive equipment etc. One should expect that the items will be treated like goods and that their value must be translated into measurable units, especially since the customs staff is often not specially trained for dealing with cultural assets. The same holds true for the chambers of industry and commerce (IHK) that handle the Carnet procedure for temporary use of goods abroad: Especially smaller offices that do not cooperate with cultural institutions or artists and creatives on a daily basis are sometimes rather dismissive. One should not be discouraged by this, but rather describe the current concern and remain polite.
Dealing with customs offices at home and abroad requires a certain sensitivity, and it is usually not very helpful to meet the bureaucratic requirements with anger or to insist on being right. Usually, the “opponent” has more power.
Unfortunately, objects are frequently held at customs offices, thus sometimes causing problems with one’s schedule, resulting in additional costs, or even endangering the planned event. In such cases, it is useful to keep additional documents or other things that may simplify the process – how far one can and wants to go is at one’s sole discretion. A good preparation and a cooperative attitude towards customs personnel are important in any case.
In the event that customs clearance abroad is unnecessarily delayed, the local cooperation partner should absolutely be included. In addition, contacting the local German embassy, the Goethe Institute, or the office of the chamber of commerce abroad (AHK) can be helpful.