Shipping goods to Canada has become a little bit easier, thanks to a new online service offered by PBB Global Logistics.

Last March the Canadian-based logistics provider announced the introduction of its Customs Tariff Search Engine. The new feature is available at the company's website (www.pbb.com), which has long been a treasure trove of information on the Canadian market.

According to John Ferguson, corporate manager of marketing for PBB, the tariff search engine allows shippers to access the Canadian Customs Tariff, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Harmonized Tariff Code of the United States.

Ferguson said that PBB has long been one of the few companies to offer this service free on the Internet.

There are government sites in both the U.S. and Canada that offer access to their respective tariff schedules, said Ferguson, but most are not designed for easy online searches and require users to download huge databases.

The new search engine is more user-friendly than older versions.

''We have matched the layout of the printed version so that it has the look of the book,'' he said. ''It also has a more detailed search criteria.''

PBB is offering the service free of charge because at the end of every year the company is deluged with calls by clients who want to know how their duty rates will be affected by the latest version of the Canadian Customs Tariff. From a simple communications standpoint, it makes sense, Ferguson said. Another reason is that it positions PBB as a global trading expert for web-surfing

shippers who will undoubtedly have other questions related to Canadian valuation and classification issues.

''There are a lot of acts and regulations that are related to the tariff,'' Ferguson said. ''You still need expertise and you still have to consider other explanatory and legal notes that apply. If there is any kind of gray area or the need for a binding ruling, you still want to seek out a pro, and we try to make that fairly clear on the website.''

Although Nafta has reduced some tariffs and eliminated others, there are still significant differences in the duty rates between the U.S. and Canada for many categories of goods. Canadian duty rates can be significantly higher for non-Nafta goods, Ferguson said. In other important ways, the entry processes in the two countries are alike. Valuation rules are similar, the processes for binding rulings are alike, and there are similar issues with regard to other government agencies that must clear goods such as food and drugs for entry.

One area of difference between the two nations is the enforcementpolicies of the two countries' customs agencies.

U.S. Customs is known to have more aggressive enforcement with regard to compliance issues, especially in their propensity to hand down penalties for violations that in Canada might merit only a warning letter. The auditing process is also much more rigorous in the U.S.

''A fairly general statement is that U.S. Customs is known to have more teeth in their auditing process,'' Ferguson said.

That may be changing, though. Canada is about to unveil AMPS, or the Administrative Monetary Penalty System.

Ferguson said that AMPS will do for Canadian shippers what the Customs Modernization Act did for U.S. shippers by laying out a whole schedule of penalties for which shippers are liable in the event of non-compliance.

Under AMPS, which is administered by the Canada Customs and revenue Agency, shippers will be subject to a wide range of penalties ranging from fines to loss of export licenses or privileges.

AMPS will be enforced with ''absolute liability,'' meaning that shippers will be penalized for non-compliance even though they may have exercised due diligence.

After fines are assessed under the new program, traders can forward a correction request to a designated CCRA officer, who can overturn or amend the fine if the problem has been corrected.

The second phase of AMPS, which includes finalization of the policies, penalty amounts and the correction mechanism, is expected to be in place this year.

The third stage of the process involves completion of an electronic reporting system and is expected to be in place by May, 2001.

More information on AMPS and other Canadian trade issues can be found on the PBB website or by contacting the PBB International Trade Solutions team at 905-871-6500.