U.S. Customs showed it was serious about enforcing new rules requiring 24 hours' notice before goods bound for the United States were loaded aboard ships in foreign ports: In its first week of enforcing the rules, the Customs Service issued 13 noload directives for what it called violations of cargo description requirements. Under the new rules, which call for detailed cargo descriptions, phrases such as "freight-all-kinds," "said to contain" and "general merchandise" are no longer acceptable.
The new rules took effect in December, but Customs began enforcing them on Feb. 1. The 24- hour rule requires vessel operators and non-vessel-owning common carriers to provide U.S. Customs with detailed descriptions of the contents of U.S.-bound containers a full day before the container is loaded on the ship. The idea is to give Customs officers time to analyze information in order to identify potential terrorist threats against the United States.
To put the 13 no-load orders in perspective, Customs reviewed more than 142,000 bills of lading for the period of Feb. 2 to Feb. 9, the agency says. The 13 bills of lading identified as having problems represented cargo destined for 15 ports, according to the agency.
Additional information on the rules is available on the U.S. Customs Web site, www.customs.gov. Interested parties can continue to e-mail their questions to Customs at firstname.lastname@example.org.