Do you know where your shipments are? If they're imports or exports, you'd better have that information because the federal government will soon demand that you share it. For imports, that means supplying information before the goods reach U.S. shores.
The long-awaited cargo manifest rules were published in late July by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Federal law requires the new rules to be in place by Oct. 1.
Overall, the proposed regulations appear to have taken into account objections to so-called "straw-man" proposals floated by the agency earlier this year. One of the most worrisome of those straw-man proposals called for 12 hours' notice in advance of most foreign lading, and eight hours in advance of express shipments. Shipper interests objected that those requirements would do serious harm to trade, causing CBP to back away from those timelines and propose less onerous requirements.
The National Industrial Transportation League, which keeps close watch on the federal regulation of cargo transportation, told its members, "Overall the League believes that the proposed rules represent a major improvement for the freight transportation industry as compared to those circulated earlier this year—the so-called 'straw-man' proposals. In most cases, the proposed rules reflect many of the changes offered by the League and other industry groups." At press time,the group was still preparing a detailed analysis of the proposed rules in order to provide comments to CBP by last month's deadline.
The proposed regulations affect all modes of transportation—a significant expansion of regulations governing ocean shipments that have been enforced since February. And they require all shippers to notify the CBP via electronic means before they bring cargo into or send cargo out of the United States. The department claims the information it's demanding "is reasonably necessary to enable high-risk shipments to be identified so as to prevent smuggling and ensure cargo safety and security."
The rules for ocean-going vessels are similar to those already in effect: CBP must receive information on shipments 24 hours before the goods are loaded on a ship in a foreign port. Export information must be transmitted 24 hours before a vessel departs the U.S. port.
For aircargo imports, information must be transmitted four hours before goods arrive in the United States; export data must be sent two hours prior to the scheduled departure. For goods bound for the United States from any location in the Americas north of the equator, the Caribbean or Bermuda, manifest information must be transmitted by the time the aircraft departs.
For inbound rail shipments, data must be sent two hours before arrival at the first U.S. port. Export data must be sent four hours before the attachment of an engine to a train bound for a foreign destination.
Data on both inbound and outbound truck shipments must be transmitted an hour before a scheduled border crossing.
U.S. exports to Canada are exempt from the rule unless the goods must be licensed by the State Department or Defense Department or the goods are bound for a third nation after passing through Canada.
In announcing the proposed rules in the Federal Register, CBP rejected arguments that requiring electronic transmission would impose substantial costs on carriers, noting that most carriers already have in place means to transmit data electronically. The agency said it would explore ways to harmonize reporting data with other federal agencies in order to minimize reporting requirements.
The demands for cargo data are an outgrowth of the government's effort to head off any attempt by terrorists to use the freight system to smuggle in weapons or other contraband using the international freight infrastructure.
The Customs Service, renamed the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, became part of the Department of Homeland Security as a result of the law that created the department last year.