U.S. CUSTOMSÆ CARGO MANIFEST DETAIL CONCERNS SHIPPING INDUSTRY
Shipping industry officials voiced concern to U.S. Customs officials Friday about the level of cargo description needed to comply with the agency’s new advance manifest filing regulation.
The regulation, effective Dec. 2, requires ocean carriers and non-vessel-operating common carriers to file detailed manifests to Customs 24 hours prior to loading their containerized freight in overseas ports. The purpose of the regulation is to give Customs adequate time to stop “high risk” containers for inspection before loading on U.S.-bound ships.
In the regulation, Customs said it would no longer accept vague freight descriptions, such as “freight all kinds” (F.A.K.) or “said to contain” (S.T.C.), or broad descriptions, such as “chemicals” or “food stuffs.” Many ocean carriers, NVOs and importers have traditionally used these types of cargo descriptions to protect the privacy of their business information from competitors and reporting services.
Customs officials told industry attendees at the agency’s third annual Trade Symposium in Washington that they must either provide a more detailed cargo text description or use the first six digits of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers.
“You can’t go wrong” by giving a good description text or using the first six digits of the HTS commodity numbers, said Kim Santos, group leader for field systems design at Customs’ Office of Information and Technology.
Customs insists it doesn’t expect the same level of detail for manifest cargo descriptions as required for import clearances and other agency requirements. “We’re not trying to mandate better trade compliance or increase examinations through this program,” said John Considine, director of cargo verification division in Customs’ Office of Field Operations.
Brian Goebel, counselor and senior policy advisor in Customs’ Office of the Commissioner, said more in-depth cargo descriptions on manifests help the agency speed up non-intrusive inspections of “high-risk” containers and perhaps reduce the need to devan some boxes.
However, ocean carriers and NVOs that fail to take the new manifest requirements seriously could face stiff penalty action from Customs 60 days after the Dec. 2 effective date.
Customs, meanwhile, encourages the shipping industry to help itself by requiring its business partners to provide more descriptive cargo descriptions for manifest purposes. “Companies can chose not to do business with companies that don’t want to comply,” Goebel said.
The agency also said it would deal with the issue of confidentiality of manifest data in an upcoming Federal Register notice, but it may ultimately require the shipping industry to lobby Congress to change the law that gives reporting services access to this information.