American Shipper

World Shipping Council asks Customs to redefine ‘shipper?

World Shipping Council asks Customs to redefine ôshipperö

      The World Shipping Council, an organization of ocean common carriers that ship more than 93 percent of U.S. imports and exports, has filed comments to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection on its proposed regulations for advanced electronic presentation of cargo information.

   WSC began by citing Section 343(a)(3)(B) of the Trade Act of 2002, which states that “in general, the requirement to provide particular information shall be imposed on the party most likely to have direct knowledge of that information.”

   In its comments, WSC first addressed the proposed regulation’s “failure” to apply this passage of the Act to information held by non-vessel-operating common carriers.

   “The proposed rules continue to allow NVOs the ability to “present the required manifest information for the related cargo to the vessel carrier, which if automated, is required to present this information to Customs via the vessel AMS system,” WSC said. “We strongly request that this provision be eliminated and that NVOCCs be required to provide the required information directly to Customs.”

   WSC gave the following reason for that request: “NVOCCs and vessel carriers were advised last year that once a NVOCC became automated, it would be expected to automate in all ports of entry, and would not be allowed to revert to a non-automated, paper-filing status for certain ports. Yet the council said that its members “have seen a large number of NVOCCs selecting to go on and off of AMS at various ports, for apparently no authorized reason. Vessel carriers are unable to audit or police this.”

   WSC also expressed qualms about the new rules’ defining what constitutes a 'shipper.' The proposed regulations would require “the identity of the actual shipper (the owner and exporter) of the cargo from the foreign country.”

   “The proposed definition of ‘shipper’ in many cases would not be the shipper in any currently recognized commercial or legal sense, and it would in many cases be an entity with which the ocean carrier has no contractual relationship and about which the ocean carrier has no direct information,” WSC said.

   “It appears clear that Customs is interested in determining the identity of the foreign entity that last owned the cargo prior to export,” WSC said. Yet “to the extent that the cargo is tendered to a consolidator or freight forwarder, who in turn tenders it to the vessel operator, that original tendering entity will be two steps removed from anyone with whom the carrier has a direct business relationship.”

   WSC asked Customs to delete the proposed expanded definition of ‘shipper,’ or “more appropriately … to place the information-reporting requirements for ‘actual shipper’ information on the parties to the underlying import transaction, not the carrier, which is a party only to the transportation contract.”

   WSC also noted an error in the proposed rules, which say that consolidators and freight forwarders issue house bills of lading. “Under terms of the Shipping Act, a freight forwarder or consolidator cannot legally issue bills of lading,” which can be done only “by an ocean carrier or NVOCC” for “ocean cargo destined for the U.S.,' WSC said.

   For the full text of the World Shipping Council’s comments, see (click on council news/council comments).

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