WCO finalizes advancee cargo information guideline
The World Customs Organization today finalized a set of recommendations on the advance electronic submission of cargo information, and on cooperation between industry and customs, to assist national customs administrations in their fight against the potential use of commercial transport by terrorists.
A WCO task force on security, set up in June 2002, has completed its work, and will bring its recommendations to the council of the Brussels-based body in June for adoption.
The international guidelines on supply chain security apply to all modes of transport, although the WCO has also defined mode-specific business guidelines for shipping and air cargo that reflect different practices in these sectors.
'The advance cargo information guidelines include the principle of obligatory transmission of information in advance,' said Dietmar Jost, senior technical officer at the WCO.
The guidelines say the exporter or his agent must electronically submit to customs an 'initial export goods declaration' prior to the goods being loaded onto the means of transport or container, followed by a more complete declaration at a later stage, where required. Similarly, the importer would submit an initial import goods declaration 'where possible prior to the goods being loaded ' or otherwise prior to arrival' to customs, followed by a complementary declaration, if necessary.
The carrier or his agent would also submit an initial cargo declaration 'in advance,' but no earlier than the shipper's export or import goods declaration. In some cases, if the shipper's goods declaration would contain all the data required by customs, a cargo declaration by the carrier would not be required.
Non-vessel-operating common carriers are treated as carriers in the cargo information guidelines.
However, the guidelines do not specify exactly which of 27 data elements will have to be submitted by the exporter, the carrier or the importer.
The WCO guidelines urge customs administration to participate in cargo community systems at ports or airports to receive data through these systems.
For all submissions to customs, the various parties will use the same 'unique consignment reference,' a new requirement, allowing the authorities to gather and consolidate complete data from different sources. It is expected that express parcel companies will be able to use existing shipment numbers for this purpose.
'The advance cargo information guidelines provide a lot of options,' Jost said. The WCO will encourage its member countries to apply the guidelines while taking into account any particular national requirements.
The WCO guidelines also encourage customs of different countries to cooperate and exchange data on a bilateral or multilateral basis to help risk assessment.
The guidelines do not specify how many hours before departure, or even before arrival, shippers and carriers should transmit the advance cargo information. Jost said different countries had different views on the issue, with different transport distances involved with their trading partners.
The guidelines also define cooperative programs between industry and customs similar to the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism initiative, and the concept of secure 'authorized supply chains.'
In return for applying secure supply chain policies, secure authorized economic operators would receive preferential, simplified treatment by customs.
Peter Dumoulin, head of supply chain security and export controls at Philips, the Dutch electronic multinational, complained that receiving this treatment will mean applying for authorized trader certification to every country where it does business.
Ian Impey, director of facilitation at the International Express Carriers Conference, stressed that the definition of an authorized trader as a secure operator is new, and criteria need to be defined to avoid differences at the stage of implementation by customs.
Brian Parkinson, adviser to the London-based International Chamber of Shipping, urged the WCO to ask national customs to conduct pilots to try the new concepts such as the new emphasis on controls of exports.
Industry associations at the WCO meeting, which have participated in the drafting of the guidelines, expressed a strong interest in the authorized trader status. Several associations of carriers also expressed concern that the WCO referred to the need for 'standards' in security, rather than recommendations.
Audrey Adams, customs attach' at the U.S. mission to the European Union, told the WCO meeting that 'the most important part' is the implementation of the recommendations.
The advance cargo information proposal of the WCO 'is definitely consistent with the U.S. position,' she told American Shipper.
In the United States, the guidelines are already in the process of implementation, she added.