CUSTOMS BACKPEDDLES ON MANIFEST RULES
A U.S. Customs official said Tuesday the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is willing to consider dropping the timeframe for submitting advance cargo manifests on ocean imports to less than the 24 hours required since the rule went into full effect Feb. 2.
The revelation came as U.S. Customs officials admitted they had done a poor job of understanding how the 24-hour requirements could negatively effect non-vessel operating common carriers and other freight brokers.
Speaking before the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, Charles Bartoldus, director of border targeting and analysis, said the review would take place this year, as the agency attempts to address technical, operational and competitive problems some sectors are having complying with the rule. He said Customs created the rule with good intentions, but armed with a better understanding of the issues and new authority from Congress under the Trade Act the agency is moving to resolve those problems.
“Admittedly we got off to a very bad start with the 24-hour rule,” but Customs is willing to listen and “will make changes,” Bartoldus said. “We get the message.”
Customs realizes now, for example, that it must get involved in resolving how carriers get notified of cargo releases in cases where electronic manifests are filed by NVOCC, something it previously thought it could leave up to the marketplace to sort out, Bartoldus said.
Customs will back up its renewed commitment to work with trade groups by instituting ways to communicate better, Bartoldus said. Among the outreach efforts will be:
* An education program by April 7 to bring Customs’ port directors and inspectors up to speed with how NVOCCs, carriers and brokers interact.
* Revising by March 21 the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Customs Web site devoted to the 24-hour rule.
* Scheduling on-site visits with NVOCCs and reprogramming AMS to notify carriers of cargo releases so that NVOCCs don’t have to do it themselves.
The mea culpa was greeted with a mixture of appreciation and skepticism by customs brokers and freight forwarders.
Bob Coleman, president of International Trade Services, said companies are getting hurt while Customs learns on the fly.
“The program needs to be fixed by the end of business today or it needs to be suspended until it’s fixed,” Coleman told American Shipper between sessions at the NCBFAA conference.