Ocean carriers will no longer be the only carriers feeling the pain of heightened security rules: U.S. Customs officials have unveiled plans for tightening security on international air cargo movements as well. The agency's initiatives were announced at a special industry conference held in Washington, D.C., last month.
According to the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), Customs floated the proposals in order to measure reaction to them in preparation for proposed rulemakings later this year. By Oct. 1, Customs must develop regulations providing for the electronic transmission of information pertaining to all cargo destined to and from the United States, prior to that cargo's arrival or departure.
The tentative proposals, which resemble the maritime security initiative adopted last year, would require the transmission of cargo manifest information prior to lading onto aircraft. For air cargo destined to the United States, Customs would require that all carriers, deconsolidators, freight forwarders and some consignment couriers use the Air Automated Manifest System (AA MS) to provide advance electronic cargo declaration information to Customs. Under the Customs Service's proposal, the data would have to be supplied eight hours prior to lading for courier shipments and 12 hours prior to lading for all other shipments-clearly a concession to the time-sensitive nature of air cargo. (The maritime rule that took effect in December requires 24 hours' notice.) After receiving the manifest information, Customs could notify parties via the AA MS if certain shipments needed to be held for security purposes or if the data provided were insufficient to make a determination.
Customs will also require electronic reports on all exports through its Automated Export System before goods leave the country. Export data consist of both commodity information and manifest information, including carrier identification, conveyance name, flight number and transfer reference number. Customs will require the information to be transmitted and accepted by AES no later than 24 hours prior to lading for air carriers and air couriers. In the interim, the carriers will be required to report both the External Transaction Number (XTN) and the Internal Transaction Number (ITN) for every shipment. (The XTN is the unique identifier assigned to the export transaction by the exporter or the authorized agent, explains NITL. The ITN is a system-generated confirmation number indicating AES has accepted the shipment.)
NITL says in its member newsletter that the reaction from industry to both proposals has been generally negative. "Many parties expressed concern that the proposals, if adopted, would delay shipments and make them uncompetitive with other modes of transportation," the newsletter said. "Others expressed the fear that the measures would simply eliminate the express delivery industry as it functions today."
The league said in a statement that any new security requirements must take into account those that are being contemplated or are under way by the United States' trading partners as well. "Both users and service providers are dependent on compatible security measures [that] work together so as not to cripple the very system they are designed to protect."