U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner announced
the publication of final Customs regulations requiring sea carriers to provide cargo manifests 24 hours prior to the lading of cargo at foreign ports for shipment to the United States
. This information is required in advance to enable U.S. Customs to evaluate the terrorist risk of cargo containers.
"Terrorist organizations pose an immediate and substantial threat to the global trading system. This threat is not just to American lives, but to American livelihoods as well," said Bonner. With this rule, Customs can better protect the American people and the global trading system as a whole from the threat of nuclear terror using sea containers."
In January, the U.S. Customs Service launched the Container Security Initiative (CSI), a program designed to protect the United States and a significant part of the global trading system--containerized shipping--from terrorists and the implements of terrorism, including weapons of mass destruction. Under CSI, the U.S. is entering into partnerships with other governments to target and screen high-risk sea containers in foreign ports before they are shipped to the United States. CSI is designed to not only detect terrorists who may attempt to use the global shipping system for their destructive purposes; it is also designed to deter them from using the system in the first place.
An essential element of CSI is advance transmission of vessel cargo manifest information to U.S. Customs. Analysis of the manifest information prior to lading will allow U.S. Customs officers posted at the foreign seaports to identify high-risk containers before they are shipped to the U.S. Because of CSI's rapid growth and critical role in homeland security, it is necessary that Customs immediately begin receiving the advance manifest information required for CSI implementation, electronically or otherwise.
U.S. Customs received 78 comments to the proposed regulation it published in August. After carefully reviewing these comments, Customs significantly amended the regulation. For example, the final regulation exempts vessels carrying bulk cargo. The document setting forth the final regulation announces that Customs will delay enforcement of the rule for 60 days after its effective date. The document also explains how confidentiality of manifest information will be protected.
Commissioner Bonner is inviting the Advisory Committee on the Commercial Operations
of the U.S. Customs Service (COAC) to convene a special subcommittee to advise the Customs Service on operational issues arising from the implementation of this regulation.
"This special subcommittee will allow Customs to maintain an open dialogue with the trade on potential implementation issues. Customs appreciates the thoughtful comments it received during the comment period. These comments were considered very seriously and ultimately helped Customs improve the final regulation. It is imperative that the trade community and Customs continue to work together," Bonner emphasized, "not only to ensure the safety of our citizens and the security of our trade, but also to help businesses maximize the economic benefits that will result from these regulations."
The final rule becomes effective 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. This final rule applies to sea carriers only.