WIESBADEN, Germany – If you have an Army Post Office address in Germany, you are subject to stringent international customs regulations. These regulations prohibit you from receiving many products and goods through the APO.
Department of Defense personnel or their family members that violate customs, agriculture or postal regulations are subject to disciplinary actions. Civilians can face criminal disciplinary action by United States authorities and hefty fines from the Zollamt (German Customs). In addition to this, Soldiers are also subject to punishment under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Packages shipped overseas through the APO system are subject to multiple inspections. When packages arrive in Germany, they are part of a joint inspection which may include random x-ray screening. Once the initial inspection is complete, packages go to the central distribution center where another inspection takes place. Finally, when packages arrive in the mail room and are awaiting pick-up, U.S. Army Europe-Africa Customs Officials do random inspections.
In 2021 alone, customs agents in Wiesbaden have inspected 9,400 packages during 32 inspections and have detected 253 packages suspected of containing prohibited and controlled items.
Brandon Oehler, the Senior Customs Border Clearance Agent for Wiesbaden shared how the inspections work. “First, we visually inspect the packages – many companies have unique boxes, or markings and we know what to look for. If it’s a box from a coffee company, that’s an automatic flag,” he said, as he points towards multiple boxes that possibly contain coffee. “Following our visual inspection, we move every package and if we hear what sounds like pills, we know that package should be inspected further. It’s amazing what we can tell by the feel of a package,” Oehler said.
According to Army in Europe Regulation 550-175 the following items are prohibited for import into Germany through the APO:
- Animals or plants
- All meat products or any product containing meat, this includes pet
food and treats.
- Cheese and Cheese products
- Milk and milk products
- Cigarettes and other tobacco products – this includes vaping liquid,
cartridges and electronic nicotine delivery systems
- Coffee and coffee products
- Alcoholic beverages
- Medication – including vitamins and nutritional supplements
The most common prohibited items found are medications (including vitamins and supplements), coffee products and meat products. It is also important to know that tobacco, coffee and alcoholic products not only violate customs laws and regulations, but tax evasion laws as well.
Once customs officials identify a package that possibly contains prohibited items, they wrap the package in customs security tape, place an easily visualized label and they attach a form with further instructions.
When the recipient of a package that has been identified as possibly containing prohibited items picks up their mail, they have two options. They can refuse to accept the package and immediately return the shipment to the sender, these refusals are logged into a database for identifying trends. Recipients can also receive the mail parcel and will be required to contact the U.S. Army Customs Agency Field Office immediately.
Each month, members of the Wiesbaden community surrender hundreds of dollars in medication, vitamins and supplements for destruction. Be aware of what you are ordering, and refrain from ordering anything that contains “drug facts” or “supplemental facts” on the label. Educate family members and friends that send you packages – many may not be aware of these regulations.
“Customs laws and regulations can be very confusing and we are always here to give guidance and help,” Oehler said.
For further information and questions, contact the Customs Office at DSN 537-3933/3934/3935 or civilian 0611-143-537-3933/3934/3935.