In an effort to prevent terrorism, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of Homeland Security, implemented several important maritime security measures. One of the most sweeping is the 24-hour manifest information rule.

Initiated on December 2, 2002, the rule helps CBP identify threats by requiring sea carriers or non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) to electronically provide detailed descriptions of U.S.-bound sea container contents 24 hours before they are loaded abroad. On February 2, 2003, after a 60-day phase-in period, CBP began fully enforcing the regulation. Unfortunately, uninformed trading partners found that noncompliance can result in fines, the inability to unload containers, or the vessel being denied U.S. docking privileges.

Details, Details, Details

Cargo declarations are required to be sent to CBP via its automated manifest system (AMS). If you are not set up on this system, you can utilize the services of a provider, or provide paper documents to your carrier for input into AMS. You also should note that the use of common cargo descriptions such as “said-to-contain,” “general merchandise” or “freight-all-kinds,” are no longer accepted. Instead, the cargo’s precise narrative description or its six-digit tariff number must be supplied.

In the past, CBP may have only received information that identified the shipper as a carrier or importer, which didn’t allow for specific tracking. Today, more information about the shipper is required, including the full name and address. Noncompliance runs the risk of closer scrutiny, and increases the likelihood that your containers will be delayed for examination or receive “do not load” messages.

Between February 2 and April 29, 2003, Customs reviewed more than 2.4 million bills of lading, and approximately 260 containers with inadequate cargo descriptions were denied loading. According to Paula Greaves, CDCS Vice President and Senior Operations Manager of Trade Operations at Bank of America, “The need to comply with these rules and provide security in the movement of goods does press technology further into the business stream. However, this provides an upside since the technology likely will enable administrative cost savings in the supply chain.”

Keep Operations Running Smoothly

In addition to ocean vessels, other modes of transportation, such as air, rail and truck, likely will be subject to advanced notification requirements. So what can companies do to ensure successful business operations?

Each company should contact CBP. Importantly, firms need to reevaluate their supply chain to ensure that every involved organization, including their overseas trading partner, understands the rules. Then, it is vital to determine where changes need to be made and to implement them. Plus, the traffic departments of both exporters and importers should work closely together to build in the necessary lead times and prepare required information accurately.

This article appeared in December 2003. (BA)

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the, is a world-recognized speaker, author and an international columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.

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