Archives For containerised cargo

Securing US Cargo - Infographic by Journal of Commerce (Click to enlarge)

Securing US Cargo – Infographic by Journal of Commerce (Click to enlarge)

The Journal of Commerce provides a very useful infographic on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts and initiatives in securing US – cargoes from foreign ports. While the Container Security Initiative (CSI) was one of the very first post 9/11 security initiatives it has since been supported by a number of other partnership programs involving other customs agencies and the US trade community. These have spawned many of the policies and guidelines being adopted by Customs agencies around the world where the WCO has ‘formulated’ and ‘standardised’ such requirements for broader international use, in conjunction with capacity building programs.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a report, “DHS Could Improve Cargo Security by Periodically Assessing Risks From Foreign Ports,” recommending that U.S. Customs and Border Protection should continually update and expand its Container Security Initiative.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, CBP has taken steps to reduce vulnerabilities associated with U.S.-bound cargo container shipments by placing customs officials at foreign seaports to determine whether U.S.-bound shipments from those ports pose a risk of containing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband. While cargo from foreign ports and ships is critical to the U.S. economy, it can also be exploited by terrorists.

When CSI was launched in 2002, CBP initially selected 23 CSI ports largely on the basis of the volume of U.S.-bound container cargo, but it increased the number of risk factors in selected additional ports as it expanded the CSI program beginning in 2003. Through 2007, CBP added 35 ports to the CSI program based on additional criteria, such as strategic threat factors and diplomatic or political considerations. As of July 2013, CBP was coordinating targeting of U.S.-bound cargo container shipments with 61 foreign ports in 34 countries.

Cargo shipment data from PIERS, JOC’s sister publication, supports the GAO’s view that the U.S. needs to update and expand CSI in order to continue effectively monitoring incoming cargo. In particular, it appears the U.S. should form new CSI partnerships with Vietnam and India, which are the Top 2 exporters to the U.S. with no established CSI partnerships.

Although Vietnam is “relatively stable” in terms of its government, it is geographically close to Laos and Cambodia, and is therefore risky because of transshipment issues, according to Susan Kohn Ross, an attorney with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. She also noted there has been a trend of manufacturers moving from China to Vietnam recently, as labor has become more expensive in China, resulting in more Vietnamese exports to the U.S.

Meanwhile, local uprisings in India recently have increased the country’s vulnerabilities to terrorist plans, despite the nation’s stable government, Ross said. India’s proximity to Pakistan also exposes it to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, and because Pakistan already has an established CSI partnership, terrorists might find it easier to smuggle cargo via India, she explained.

Conversely, if budgetary constraints ever force the CSI program to condense its monitoring, then CSI partnerships could perhaps be downgraded or eliminated entirely with the governments of Jamaica, Oman and Greece, which are the smallest exporters to the U.S. with established CSI connections, according to PIERS.

However, expanding and even contracting the CSI program present challenges. For example, CBP officials said in the GAO report that it is difficult to close CSI ports because removing the program from a country might negatively affect U.S. relations with the host government.

Furthermore, implementing a CSI partnership in a country exposes jurisdictional issues and regulatory differences, Ross said. For instance, the U.S. considers drugs to be a national security issue, but that’s not always the case in other countries, so prioritization of monitoring has to be worked out. Issues like which nation should pay for customs officers to be trained, or who should fix scanning equipment when it breaks, also must be resolved.

Ross further explained that it is “highly unlikely” that the federal government will ever expand CSI to cover 100 percent of all U.S. imports, an idea that CBP considered in 2009, but never implemented because of budget constraints. She said that scanning equipment is not advanced enough to expeditiously monitor all U.S.-bound cargo, and not all countries would even be willing to put CSI in place anyway.

Ultimately, nothing is foolproof, and if terrorists really wanted to wreak havoc on the U.S., they could probably more easily attack the U.S. through its borders, via Canada and Mexico, Ross said. However, CSI acts as an important deterrent, limiting the number of chances a terrorist has to harm to the U.S. Source: www.joc.com

Advertisements
Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture - Financial Mail

Thaba Mufamadi, chairman of Parliament’s finance committee. Picture – Financial Mail

Parliment’s standing committee on finance (SCoF) has decided to postpone its deliberations on two draft customs-related bills until next year to allow importers and the freight-forwarding industry more time to comment on the proposals which threaten the status of City Deep as an inland port. This followed an appeal by the South African Association of Freight Forwarders that it had had insufficient time to consider the substantially revised draft Customs Control Bill and Customs Duty Bill, which required that imported goods would have to be cleared at the first point of entry.

The association, supported by a range of other business organisations, including the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned that the bills could be challenged on constitutional grounds if the process of consultation was deficient. All political parties supported the proposal by finance committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi on Wednesday that the deliberations on the bills be postponed until next year. He instructed stakeholders to make their submissions to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) by December 15.

Mr Mufamadi also took cognisance of concerns raised by Business Unity South Africa that parliamentary processes did not allow sufficient time to comment, for example, on the medium-term budget policy statement. Industry has warned of port delays and trade disruption if the proposals were to be adopted. The Customs Control Bill proposes that goods be cleared at the first port of entry into South Africa. This will mean that inland ports such as City Deep in Johannesburg would no longer be designated places of entry or exit for customs purposes. In the past, containerised cargo could move directly to inland ports on arrival in the country under cover of a manifest. A new declaration — of the nature, value, origin and duty payable on the goods — would replace the manifests.

SARS said these did not provide sufficient information to undertake a risk assessment. Another bone of contention for industry was the “extremely severe” penalties proposed in the draft Customs Duty Bill. Following the uproar about the proposals SARS offered a compromise earlier this week as a way out of the impasse. Instead of a clearance at the port of entry, a mandatory advance customs clearance of the goods three days before their arrival at the first port of entry would be required. Goods consigned to inland terminals such as City Deep would be released conditionally. The system would be tested for the whole of next year to iron out any problems.

An alternative option would be for the goods to undergo a lesser form of clearance at the first point of entry. This would still entail providing customs authorities with the same level of information on the tariff, value and origin of goods, which would be submitted by electronic data interchange. The importer would be held accountable for the information that was provided. SARS official Kosie Louw said that because this document would not have the formal status of a clearance certificate, it would not disrupt existing legal contractual arrangements, as claimed. The goods would still move CIF (cost insurance and freight) from the port to City Deep. SARS has also proposed softening the penalty provisions so that errors not resulting in any prejudice to customs revenue will be subject to penalties only after three warnings. These penalties will be discretionary and applied leniently in the first 12 months of the bill coming into force to allow business time to properly prepare for the change. An appeal process has been included. Source: Business Day Live.