Not all Customs delays involve trucks lined up at a border crossing or ships backed up at a port. In the past month, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection announced some more welcome delays—the postponement of compliance deadlines for several of its security rules' provisions.
In late February, the agency said it would postpone the March 4 compliance date for the provisions in its final Trade Act regulations that pertained to the "shipper" data field in ocean bills of lading. The delay was announced after trade organizations complained that the rule created substantial confusion over the legal definition of "shipper" (see DC VELOCITY, March 2004, "Will the real shipper please stand up?").
The trade groups had argued that the way the final rule was worded, carriers filling out inbound ocean bills of lading could have been required to list as the "shipper" a foreign vendor, supplier or manufacturer (or even an individual) that did not contract for the transportation. In some cases, carriers could have been required to obtain the names of their customers' customers —information that carriers may not know first hand.
The bureau has said it will work with shipping interests to define the term "shipper" clearly. In the meantime, it will use the 24-Hour rule's definition of "shipper," under which it is acceptable to list the party that contracts for carriage of the cargo as the shipper.
Early last month, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection said it would also delay implementation of final security rules that required the advance electronic transmission of information for air cargo entering the United States. The rule, which had also been scheduled to take effect on March 4, was put on hold while Customs completes modifications to its electronic data interchange system, trains personnel at affected ports and completes certification testing.
Customs expects to introduce the required technical modifications by May 13, 2004, when it will begin a 90-day certification testing period. Compliance dates will be staggered by port of entry over three months, beginning on Aug. 13.