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Materials Management

Materials Management

University activities that involve the transfer of project information, equipment, materials, or technology out of the U.S. by whatever means may be subject to export controls and may require export license(s) depending on the item, destination, recipient, and end-use. The shipment of a controlled physical item from the United States to a foreign country, such as a piece of scientific equipment or a biological material, may require an export license. Be sure to secure license approval or verify license exception prior to shipment for all controlled items. Speak with your campus export control contact or Vice Chancellor for Research for guidance on verifying license exceptions and submission of license applications. University of California Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services (ECAS) provides guidance on shipping best practices and the applicability of export license exemptions.

There are also specific regulations controlling the shipment of biological and hazardous materials. No hazardous materials should be shipped from a campus location without consulting an EH&S Hazardous Materials Shipping Specialist. If you are unsure if your material is allowed to be shipped, contact your EH&S office.

Last updated: 13 Dec 2016


UC campuses receive negotiated discounts from many UC vendors. This discount is not transferable, and some equipment is not intended to leave the campus. Vendors are responsible for the first level of compliance. Work with your sales representative. If you plan to export equipment or other research materials, vendors will charge based on the destination, so find out the price before writing your budget.

Prior to shipment of any commodity out of the U.S., determine if the commodity requires an export license and assist in securing such license, when required. There are two main 'lists' of controlled items: Export Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms (ITAR). For more information visit the ECAS International Shipping site. 

Host Countries

Host countries have regulations about importing equipment, and many items cannot be shipped by air. FedEx keeps a list of up-to-date regulations. Coordinate this with your partner institution. 

Last updated: 8 Dec 2016

Shipping and Customs

International shipping costs can vary based on the required transit time, mode of transportation used, and special handling requirements. For example, sending smaller shipments through a freight consolidator may reduce your shipping cost as you pay by volume instead of weight. University of California's international freight forwarder is American Cargoservice, Inc. (ACS), strategic sourcing agreements number 085/OP/050:


  • Can arrange all types of transportation i.e. Air and Ocean freight, as well as shipments containing Dangerous Goods.
  • Can arrange Importer Security Filing (ISF) for your ocean import shipments – Contact ACS before anything ships to you by ocean to avoid possible fines and penalties
  • Provides US customs brokerage and Carnet services

Special considerations should be adhered to for international shipments that are controlled for export, high value, perishable or require additional customs documentation (ask ACS for a quote).

For smaller shipments of < 45 kg/100 lbs. with low value (under $2500.00) it is recommended to consider use of a courier such as FedEx or UPS as this may reduce your shipping costs.

Customs Regulations

Every country has different regulations regarding acceptable import items and import taxes. Use the UPS Country Regulations tool to find country-specific facts and regulations that may affect your international shipment.

When your items arrive, they will be held until they clears customs. Be sure to fill out any forms accurately and in detail. If customs has to seize a package because the description of the contents isn’t detailed enough or doesn’t seem to match the contents this will mean delays in shipping times.


Tracking and insurance can mean a price increase on international shipments, depending on the shipping provider. However, the risk of packages getting lost in international transit is typically high and theft during shipment can be an issue.

Contact your Risk Management Office for shipment insurance. Document everything well, and include two copies of documents for the shippers. Take photos of the items and shipping container.

Last updated: 21 Aug 2017

Shipping Hazardous and Bio-materials

Moving biological and biohazardous materials can be complex. Most biologicals are not stable for shipping and are typically stored in dry ice or liquid nitrogen. DHL offers a Shipping Dangerous Goods option. World Courier handles infectious materials and replenishes dry ice. They also keep materials in pressurized cabins, and forgo x-rays. Cryoport and FedEx will ship a liquid nitrogen vapor carrier internationally.

Regulated Hazardous Materials include:

  • Infectious and biological substances
  • Genetically modified organisms or micro-organisms
  • Chemicals Radioactive materials
  • Compressed cylinders (whether filled or empty)
  • Dry ice
  • Liquid nitrogen Certain batteries
  • Equipment containing batteries (including but not limited to PCs, tablets, cell phones and eVapor cigarettes)
  • Gasoline
  • Ethanol

Anyone shipping biologicals is required to be trained. For more information see the UC Manual on Shipping Biological Materials.

To move research materials between a UC campus and outside institutions there must be a Material Transfer Agreement in place. Contact your campus Material Transfer Coordinator for more information.

Prior to shipping research equipment or materials out of the country, work with your export control manager or Vice Chancellor for Research's office to determine whether an export license is required.

For more information visit the ECAS International Shipping site. 

Last updated: 12 Dec 2016
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016