U.S. CUSTOMS: INDUSTRY IN æGENERAL SUPPORTÆ OF ADVANCE MANIFESTS
U.S. Customs Service’s deputy commissioner Douglas Browning told brokers and forwarders Monday that industry is supportive of the agency’s proposed ruling asking for the filing of cargo manifests prior to loading overseas, and Customs will put out a final ruling soon.
Customs proposed the rule because it needs detailed information from manifests 24 hours prior to loading on American-bound vessels to strengthen security in international trade, Browning said at a meeting of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America in Washington.
The proposed ruling, which was posted on the Federal Register Aug. 8, eliminates the use of generic cargo descriptions on manifests, such as “freight of all kinds” or “said to contain.”
Attendees at the NCBFAA meeting told Browning the proposed ruling placed unfair burdens of costs and operations on industry, and that the agency should instead place more focus on screening passengers instead of freight in its antiterrorism campaign. Some went as far to say that the U.S. government might be taking advantage of a post-Sept. 11 climate to push forward its own security and enforcement agenda.
“The intelligence we are getting says the next vehicle is cargo,” Browning said in defense of the proposed ruling. “This is not the government trying to take advantage of this situation.”
Browning said Customs needs detailed information up front on vessels heading to the United States in order to support its Container Security Initiative, which calls for identifying high-risk containers at foreign ports and screening them prior to departure through cooperation.
Browning said Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner is in Europe trying to enlist more countries in CSI. Bonner has also been lobbying members of Congress to put more funding into development of Customs’ computer-generated trade monitoring system, the Automated Commercial Environment.
More funding will help Customs roll out ACE in its completion within four years. He said that ACE, along with CSI, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, will be paramount in tightening security in the international trade system. He added that success of CSI is dependent on the proposed ruling. “This is critical to our CSI program,” Browning said.