CUSTOMS: IMPORT FREIGHT RATES MUST BE REPORTED
U.S. Customs says that confidentiality of freight rates in the Ocean
Shipping Reform Act doesn’t exclude this information from being reported to the agency.
Customs collects freight rate cost from import summaries. That
information is then passed on to the Census Bureau for trade statistics
"It’s not so much that Customs routinely needs this information,"
Don Luther, program officer for Customs in Washington. "The real driver behind this
is trade statistics reporting requirements."
While rates can be negotiated confidentially between carriers and
shippers, the regulations don’t prohibit other government agencies from
having access to that information.
"Importers say they don’t mind giving us their rate information,"
said. "The problem is that they usually pass us this data through a
middleman — a customs broker."
The concern wouldn’t be confidential information in general, because
brokers receive this type of data as part of their routine business
activity. But that information may pose a conflict of interest for a broker
who is also in the freight forwarding business.
Industry officials have suggested a variety of alternatives for
submitting this information confidentially to Customs, such as filing
freight data to a separate Customs system. Another suggestion has been to use the
Automated Commercial System Reconciliation Prototype, which allows importers to pay duties
on the estimated value at the time of entry and follow up 12 to 15 months later with a
more accurate figure.
"None of these are viable options at Customs," Luther said.
"For now, we have no other choice but to require data on freight charges at the time
the entry summary is filed."