US Container Security Initiative to hit Pakistan's shipping lines, exports

KARACHI (December 03 2002) : The tough security measures, governing the shipments to the US, made under the US Container Security Initiative (CSI), effective from Monday (December 2), will affect the shipping lines and Pakistan's exports to the US.

According to details available here, a notice was published by the US Customs in the Federal Register on October 31, containing these measures known as

“USA sea freight – 24 hours advance manifest rules” which became effective from December 2. The Customs has granted an implementation phase until February 2, 2003.

Violations of the new provisions, however, will most likely not be subjected to monetary penalties as provided in the rule until expiry of the implementation phase.

The penalties listed are 5,000 dollars for the first violation and 10,000 dollars for each subsequent violation with the possibility that the cargo involved might be subject to seizure and forfeiture.

But other consequences can already be applied consisting of having to unload the containers involved from the vessel in the port of loading for the US Customs' inspection, resulting in additional cost of handling.

Other possibilities are delaying the issuance of permit to unload the entire vessel or the cargo involved until all required information are received in the US port, or even the complete details of issuance of an unloading permit for the entire cargo or a part thereof.

This new rule is considered to be a continuance of the US Container Security Initiative.

The US terrorism experts noted that the import of ocean container was most vulnerable to future terrorism attacks. Thus the US Customs service launched the CSI in January this year to address this issue. The CSI has the following four-core element:

-Identify “high risk” containers: This means every container arriving in the US today is assessed the risk it might pose for national security.

-A “high risk” container can be a container loaded with hazardous materials, having a mass destruction potential. It has been determined that the CSI would be more effective if the risk determination could be done even before the container is loaded on board of the US bound vessel.

-Pre-screening of containers before they are being shipped to the US in the foreign port of loading.

-Use technology to screen high risk containers. This technology includes large-scale X-ray machines or radiation detection devices.

-Use more secure containers to ensure the integrity of containers screened overseas, eg use of seals and recording of seal numbers.

In the introduction and comments of the publication of this rule making in the Federal Register US Customs emphasised that they would pay attention to the shipments to Canada, which eventually might be shipped to the US via road or rail. Shipments to Canada should not be used to circumvent the 24-hour notification requirement.

The numbers and quantities from the carrier's ocean bills of lading, either master or house, as applicable. (This means showing the quantity of the lowest external packaging unit, eg a container, containing 10 pallets with 200 cartons, should be documented as 200 cartons).

A precise description of the cargo (alternatively the Harmonised Tariff Schedule to a six-digit level). Generic descriptions, such as “FAK” (freight of all kinds), “General Cargo”, “Chemicals N.O.S.” and terms as “STC” (for “said to contain”) are not acceptable anymore.

The bottom line: All US inbound containers, including the containers in transit through the US ports, may only be loaded abroad after adherence to the 24-hour notification deadline. The 24-hour period should enable the Customs to initiate the inspections where deemed necessary.

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