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“Is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) always a poisoned chalice from the United States of America?”, asks an editorial in The East African. The Kenya newspaper suggests it appeared to be so after the US allowed a petition that could see Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda lose their unlimited opening to its market.

This follows the US Trade Representative assenting last week to an appeal by Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, a used clothes lobby, for a review of the three countries’ duty-free, quota-free access to the country for their resolve to ban importation of used clothes, the The East African continues.

The US just happens to be the biggest source of used clothes sold in the world. Some of the clothes are recycled in countries like Canada and Thailand before being shipped to markets mostly in the developing world.

In East Africa, up to $125 million is spent on used clothes annually, a fifth of them imported directly from the US and the bulk from trans-shippers including Canada, India, the UAE, Pakistan, Honduras and Mexico.

The East Africa imports account for 22 percent of used clothes sold in Africa. Suspending the three countries from the 2000 trade affirmation would leave them short of $230 million in foreign exchange that they earn from exports to the US.

That would worsen the trade balance, which is already $80 million in favour of the US. In trade disputes, numbers do not tell the whole story. Agoa now appears to have been caught up in the nationalism sweeping across the developed world and Trumponomics.

US lobbies have been pushing for tough conditions to be imposed since it was enacted, including the third country rule of origin which would require that apparel exports be made from local fabric.

The rule, targeted at curbing China’s indirect benefits from Agoa through fabric sales, comes up for a legislative review in 2025, making it prudent for African countries to prepare for the worst. Whether that comes through a ban or phasing out of secondhand clothing (the wording that saved Kenya from being listed for a review) is immaterial.

What is imperative is that African countries have to be resolute in promoting domestic industries. In textiles and leather, for instance, that effort should include on-farm incentives for increasing cotton, hides and skins output, concessions for investments in value-adding plants like ginneries and tanneries and market outlets for local textile and shoe companies.

The world over, domestic markets provide the initial motivation for production before investors venture farther afield. Import bans come in handy when faced with such low costs of production in other countries that heavy taxation still leaves those products cheaper than those of competitors in the receiving countries.

The US has also been opposed to heavy taxation of used clothes, which buyers say are of better quality and more durable. For Kenya to be kept out of the review, it had to agree to reduce taxes on used apparel.

These factors have left Agoa beneficiaries in a no-win situation: Damned if you ban, damned if you do not. With their backs to the wall, beneficiaries like Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda have to think long term in choosing their industrial policies and calling the US bluff.

Beneficiaries must speak with one voice to effectively guard against trade conditions that over time hamper domestic industrial growth. Source: The East African, Picture: US GAO

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The notices detailing President Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, attractive wall” were made public late Friday (3 April 2017) by Customs and Border Protection. The request from the Customs and Border Protection Department called for a 30-ft-high wall, but said that plans to build a wall minimum 18 ft in height may be acceptable.

“The north side of wall (i.e. USA facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”, reads the RFP. In the documents, CBP says that the side facing the US must also be “aesthetically pleasing” in “color, anti-climb texture etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”.

And that’s before a new Trump budget, which came out Thursday, includes $2.6 billion over two years to begin construction of the wall. The government is asking for a 9-meter-high concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground, built to be “physically imposing” and capable of resisting nearly any attack, “by sledgehammer, vehicle jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch”.

Earlier this week Mexican lawmakers increased pressure on Mexican construction firms tempted to help build deeply reviled wall.

The proposal document asks contractors for 30-foot-long prototypes and mock-ups of 10 feet by 10 feet. Although Trump made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign to get the Mexican government tol pay for the wall, expectations are low that the U.S.’s southern neighbor will give money while it’s being built or afterwards.

The specifications leave almost all of the design work to interested bidders, who now have about two weeks to develop and submit their plans, known as proposals. Trump called for the wall to stop illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and to cut off drug-smuggling routes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in January that the wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, though other estimates have put the price tag as high $25 billion.

There was some misplaced optimism that Donald Trump would immediately jettison all of his inane campaign promises upon taking office; that the threat of a wall at the Mexican border would be quietly tabled for its obvious insanity.

Proponents of a wall make two questionable assumptions: First, that there will be a continued north flow of refugees. Friday’s release did not address the overall cost of the wall. The city of Berkeley, California, said last week it would refuse to do business with any company that’s part of the border wall. The cost of about 1,000 miles of wall could cost $21.6 billion between now and 2020. Published on Aliveforfootbal website

Verified Gross MassThe US Coast Guard has told American shippers that it will not delay implementation of the SOLAS Chapter VI amendment requiring containers to have a verified gross mass before they can be shipped.

The US Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), representing most of the country’s agricultural and forestry products exporters and thus accounting for a huge slice of US shipping exports, argued that confusion over the VGM could lead to business being lost and threatened supply chain turmoil.

It called for a one-year delay in implementation of the new rules, due to take effect on 1st July, to allow time for government and industry to work together to solve the problems. AgTC cited SOLAS Article VIII(b)(vii)(2), which allows for a Competent Authority [in this case the USCG] to give notice to the IMO of an intention to delay implementation of any SOLAS regulation for up to one year at any point before the entry into force.

However, at a special public meeting convened on 18th February at the offices of the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, DC, Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, the USCG’s Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, said a delay to implementation would not be entertained.

Thomas pointed out that that the VGM is not a US regulation or law, but arises out of international agreement within IMO. As such it will be enforced by flag states, where ships are registered, and any signal that the US was unready or unwilling to comply with the new rule would be interpreted by flag state authorities to mean that loading US export containers on their ships is unsafe. He added that most US exports are carried on foreign flag ships.

This should be the end of the matter. However, the IMO mechanisms allow the US (or any other IMO member-state) to give notice any time up to 30th June. The US could also introduce an “AOB” paper at the next IMO MSC meeting scheduled for May.

At the meeting last week, shippers were reassured that if they used “Method 2” (VGM by calculation), they are legally entitled to rely on the container’s CSC plate as providing an accurate empty tare weight. Source: World Cargo News

product_tsaprecheck_hero_750x200The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently achieved two major milestones for its trusted traveler programs. The Transportation Security Administration Pre✓ application program, which began in December 2013, has now enrolled more than half a million travelers.

Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has enrolled more than three million users in their trusted traveler programs: Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. Together, all of these DHS trusted traveler programs provide an improved passenger experience, while enhancing security and increasing system-wide efficiencies.

TSA Pre✓ allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at 118 U.S. airports nationwide currently. TSA Pre✓ is an expedited screening program that allows pre-approved airline travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on in select screening lanes.

The TSA Pre✓ application program allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to directly enroll in TSA Pre✓. Once approved, travelers will receive a “Known Traveler Number” and will have the opportunity to utilize TSA Pre✓ lanes at select security checkpoints when flying on a participating carrier: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Upon arrival in the United States from abroad, Global Entry members are able to bypass the traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk. With more than 70,000 new applicants each month, travelers enrolled in this program can scan their passport and fingerprints, answer the customs declaration questions using the kiosk’s touch screen and proceed with a receipt — the whole process only takes about one minute. Launched in 2008, as a pilot program, Global Entry is now a permanent program and has 51 locations in the U.S. and at CBP Preclearance stations in Canada. These locations serve 99 percent of incoming travelers to the United States. Source: dhs.gov

mobile-passport-control-app-by-cbpU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today announced the launch of the first authorized app to expedite a traveler’s entry process into the United States. Mobile Passport Control (MPC) will allow eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet prior to CBP inspection. This first-of-its-kind app was developed by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in partnership with CBP as part of a pilot program at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. IPhone and iPad users can download the app for free from Apple’s App Store.

Eligible travelers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will be able to use the app beginning Aug. 13. MPC is expected to expand to more airports later this year and to Android smartphone users in the future.

“CBP continues to transform the international arrivals experience for travelers by offering new and innovative ways to expedite entry into the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “By offering this app to passengers, we hope to build upon the success we have already experienced with Automated Passport Control, which has resulted in decreases in wait times as much as 25-40 percent, even with continued growth in international arrivals.”

MPC currently offers U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors a more efficient and secure in-person inspection between the CBP officer and the traveler upon arrival in the United States. Much like Automated Passport Control, the app does not require pre-approval, is free-to-use and does not collect any new information on travelers. As a result, travelers will experience shorter wait times, less congestion and faster processing.

“Mobile Passport exemplifies the forward-thinking commitment CBP and airports have to improving the passenger experience when entering the United States,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “This partnership between CBP and ACI-NA also represents an outstanding example of industry and government working together to find smart, cost-effective solutions. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with CBP as Mobile Passport begins its roll-out at U.S. airports later this year.”

There are five easy steps to MPC:

  • Download the Mobile Passport Control App from the Apple App Store prior to arriving
  • Create a profile with your passport information
  • Complete the “New Trip” section upon arrival in the United States
  • Submit your customs declaration form through the app to receive an electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code. This receipt will expire four hours after being issued
  • Bring your passport and smartphone or tablet with your digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer

ACI-NA contracted with Airside Mobile in MPC’s technical development. Information about Mobile Passport, including how to download, user eligibility and other frequently asked questions, is available on the Travel section of the CBP.gov website and the Airside Mobile website.

MPC is just one part of CBP’s resource optimization strategy which is transforming the way CBP does business in land, air and sea environments. As part of its commitment to innovation, CBP last year rolled out Automated Passport Control, which is now available in 22 locations, and automated the I-94 form. CBP has also enrolled more than two million travelers in trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. These programs allow CBP officers to process travelers safely and efficiently while enhancing security and reducing operational costs. Source: USCBP

AGOA_W1Swaziland has lost its preferential trading status with the United States. US President Barack Obama announced (26 June 2014) that the kingdom would lose its benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

He said this was because Swaziland was not ‘making continual progress’ in enacting civil, political and workers’ rights.

Swaziland is not a democracy and is ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The decision to withdraw Swaziland’s AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights. The statement said after an ‘extensive review’ the US, ‘concluded that Swaziland had not demonstrated progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights.

In particular, Swaziland has failed to make continual progress in protecting freedom of association and the right to organize. Of particular concern is Swaziland’s use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labor and employer federations.

AGOA is a US preferential trade programme that provides duty-free access to the $3 trillion US market for thousands of products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries.

Media in Swaziland have predicted that as many as 20,000 jobs in the kingdom’s textile industry could be lost as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA benefits that comes into force on 1 January 2015. The textile industry in Swaziland is dominated by Taiwanese companies which were drawn to the kingdom by the availability of cheap labour and the AGOA agreement. Source: Swazi Media Commentary

Picture: Ben Mortimer

Picture: Ben Mortimer

The technology of ‘Minority Report‘ is closer than you think, according to Russell Brandom writing in www.theverge.com.  A company called AOptix recently unveiled its latest creation, pitched as a game-changer in the world of iris recognition. In less grandiose terms, it’s basically an iPhone case for cops, providing military-grade biometric scanning on the move. The AOptix shell is built to provide everything an officer needs to process a suspect on the spot. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back, the capacity for facial recognition, and the new guest at the party: an iris scanner. The camera’s a little tricky — you have to hold it a little less than a foot away, and keep it steady for a few seconds — but otherwise, using the Stratus is like taking pictures with a heavier, clunkier iPhone. Crucially, it’s small enough to hold with just one hand, so the officer using it can still reach for his gun.

The Stratus has only been on the market a few weeks, but AOptix is already pitching it for use at border crossings and in airport security. The US Department of Defense is interested too, and provided a $3 million grant for AOptix to develop the tech further. Once it’s normalized, scanning your iris could become as routine as swiping a credit card. “We really feel it’s going to be an inflection point in the biometrics industry,” AOptix marketing director Joey Pritikin told The Verge. “We can do business, we can conduct health care, we can go to disaster areas. This will really open up new markets.” After years of lurking in the margins, AOptix thinks iris scanning is ready for the big time.

Outside of the West, it’s already there. Hundreds of millions of Indians have already been iris-printed, along with thousands of Iraqi civilians and anyone who goes through customs regularly in Dubai. It’s the gold standard of a modern ID program, easier than fingerprinting and more stable than facial recognition. All you have to do is look at the camera and open your eyes. And unlike in retinal scans, the scanner doesn’t need to be up close. It’s just a photograph, taken in infrared, which in theory could work if taken from across the room.

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw something like it in Minority Report, where omnipresent eye-flashers identify everyone who walks through a public plaza, targeting ads at them and feeding the police information about their every move. Even Pritikin acknowledges the precedent, saying, “Tom Cruise did not do us any favors.” But within the industry, the product is less exotic, just the latest and best solution to the persistent problem of quick, reliable identification. What does the world look like when proving ID is as easy as taking a photograph? Like it or not, we’re about to find out.

Iris Scanner (Picture: Ben Mortimer)

Iris Scanner (Picture: Ben Mortimer)

If you find yourself flying into Dubai, you can see it in action. The city’s airport recently made the switch to an automated two-gate customs system, also made by AOptix. Scanning your passport opens the first gate; an iris print opens the second. Once the system is fully deployed, the company says it will bring wait times down from 49 minutes to 22 seconds. A private company called Clear is already trying this on an opt-in basis in the US. In exchange for a quick iris scan, their service will let you skip security in half a dozen American airports.

The bargain is simple enough: In exchange for one more biometric, you get to skip an hour in customs, or the indignity of a TSA checkpoint search. And as an ID technology, it simply works better. It’s less invasive, harder to fake (although still possible), and more effective at everything we want ID tech to be good at. Of course, that same effectiveness makes a Minority Report future all the more plausible.

For countries with national ID programs, this Orwellian scenario is already starting to play out. In collaboration with MorphoTrust, India has already iris-printed 350 million of its citizens as part of its national ID program, and they’re on track to scan all 1.2 billion. This year, Mexico will roll out the first iris-matched ID cards in the world as part of a $25 million program. In both cases, the ID will help stop fraud and provide poverty assistance, helping solve half a dozen urgent humanitarian issues at once. Despite these good intentions, this kind of mass identification has civil libertarians very worried.

“The concern is that biometrics will be used for the mass tracking of individuals,” according to Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If that kind of ID system becomes routine and widespread, it turns us into a kind of checkpoint society.” Even in India, the system is still only used at police stations and government offices, but once the print is connected to a universal ID, it’s easy to imagine iris scans becoming as commonplace as pulling out a driver’s license.

For now, we’re left with less invasive devices like the Stratus, an iris camera aimed squarely at US law enforcement. The FBI is already building an iris system to track persons of interest, and it’s not hard to see them using a Stratus-like device to collect prints. Iris cameras haven’t landed in the hands of beat cops yet, but AOptix is trying its best to get them there. The path of the technology, from the military to local law enforcement, is almost complete. The only question is what it will look like when it gets here. Source: http://www.theverge.com

 

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not assessed risks at select foreign ports with U.S.-bound shipments since 2005, part of a string of failures that has left key ports without a CBP presence, the Government Accountability Office says. (Hmm, never mind the impact caused to Customs administration in the host countries……)

In examining CBP’s Container Security Initiative program, GAO found that the agency developed a model for ranking additional seaports according to risk in 2009, but never implemented it because of budget cuts, according to the report.

GAO applied that risk model to 2012 cargo shipment data and found that the CSI program had no presence at about half the ports CSP found high risk. Meanwhile, 20 percent of existing CSI program ports were at lower-risk locations, according to the findings (.pdf).

Although GAO acknowledged host countries are not always willing to accommodate a CSI presence, and that removal of a CSI presence can negatively affect diplomatic relations, auditors said periodic assessments of cargo shipped from foreign ports could help CBP better guard against terror-related shipments.

Although there have been no known incidents of cargo containers being used to transport WMD, the maritime supply chain remains vulnerable to attacks. We recognize that it may not be possible to include all of the higher-risk ports in CSI because CSI requires the cooperation of sovereign foreign governments.

To better ensure the effectiveness of the CSI program, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to periodically assess the supply chain security risks from all foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States and use the results of these risk assessments to (1) inform any future expansion of CSI to additional locations and (2) determine whether changes need to be made to existing CSI ports and make adjustments as appropriate and feasible.

Such assessments “would help ensure that CBP is allocating its resources to provide the greatest possible coverage of high-risk cargo to best mitigate the risk of importing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband into the United States through the maritime supply chain,” GAO said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with the recommendation and said CBP would complete its first assessment by Aug. 12, 2014. To access or download the GAO Report on CSI, Click Here! Source: US Government Accounting Office

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013 (Table: GAO)

 

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

CBP personnel in Sault Ste Marie take a moment to recognize the fallen on 9/11 at the International Bridge. (Picture: US Customs & Border Protection)

 

Also see –

9/11 – The Significance for Customs

9/11 Vivid Memories

 

Picture credit - Gismag.com

Picture credit – Gizmag.com

First came news from The Guardian that the NSA was collecting phone records from millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret government order:  “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”

Then, in the last few hours, more layers were peeled back by The Washington Post:  “The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.”

The story continues to list the companies who allegedly gave the US government unfettered access to customer data (emphasis is ours): “Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: ‘Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

According to a series of alleged PowerPoint slides obtained by The Washington Post, Microsoft was the first to join the program, in September of 2007. The most recent addition was Apple, in October of 2012. Dropbox is reportedly “coming soon.”

Interestingly, most of the companies named are responding to requests for comment by flat-out denying awareness or involvement. According to The Next Web, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Yahoo have all denied participation. PRISM reportedly began collecting data in 2007, which means it was introduced under President Bush. However, The Washington Post says the program has experienced “exponential growth” under the Obama administration.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

The slides reveal an annual budget of US$20 million for the program with data monitored by the program including e-mails, instant messages, videos, photos, stored data (presumably in the cloud), voice chats, file transfers, video conferences, log-in times, and social network profile details. Although the program is supposedly aimed at surveillance of foreign targets, such as spies and terrorists, and is intended to take advantage of the fact that most of the world’s data flows through the US, it is inevitable that data of US citizens is caught up in the mix. The NSA Powerpoint slides describe this as “incidental.”

It shouldn’t be too shocking that the US government spies on its citizens. What may be more surprising is just how far-reaching, and possibly unconstitutional, this program is. Perhaps the most significant part will be the fallout now that the secrets are out in the open.

Recent developments concerning customs data exchange via “cloud-type” mediums will therefore come under more scrutiny given current revelations in the US. It serves little purpose for countries to agree on data confidentiality and unwittingly (?) make such data available for ‘harvesting’ via third-party technology providers. Let this come as a fore-warning to governments.

Sources: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Next Web, and Gizmag.

ACE_image_csonLast week, the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) hosted a conference in Baltimore, MD targeting software developers interested in obtaining more information about US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and upcoming technical changes related to the PGA Message Set, Entry Summary Edits, Automated Corrections/Cancellations and AES Re-Engineering/Manifest Baseline development. During the conference, CBP made two important announcements which were heard and noted first hand from an Integration Point representative. These two announcements included:

  • CBP announced that it plans to mandate the use of manifest and cargo release in ACE by December 31, 2015 and mandate the use of ACE by December 31, 2016. CBP also provided a tentative release schedule for seven deployments that will lead up to this mandate.  Each deployment will consist of one or two increments, and each increment will span over a period of twelve to thirteen weeks. On this road map, CBP announced some exciting functionalities to be released in the near future such as automated cancellation and/or correction of entries, integration of simplified entry with other modes of transport and certifying simplified entry through summary. In addition to the enhanced simplified entry process, CBP also gradually plans to include the validations that were not initially included in ACE entry summaries.
  • CBP is also working on the reengineering of AES and pilot programs of entry data collection for various Participating Government Agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and CBP plans to deploy this later on in 2013 and early in 2014.

Now there is relevance in all of this. It reinforces the growing importance of Customs’ focus on “cargo management”.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the goods declaration alone. This is not only short-sighted but demonstrates an ignorance of the global supply chain. Without the ‘cargo report’ (manifest) the goods declaration is little more than a testament of what is purported to have been imported and exported.

Image credit: Nakilat

Image credit: Nakilat

With soaring energy costs, Japan appears to have a pretty uniform goal, to invest as much as possible in other sources of energy and energy supply chains around the world. Many others like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are following suit and hedging themselves for what is turning out to be a reversal of their business model. Even the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which connects the world’s largest oil tankers with over half of the United States’ refining capacity is readjusting its business model for the changing flow of energy. With the eventual opening of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) flood gates from the US however, coupled with Free Trade Agreements to places such as Japan, American energy firms and tax payers stand to cash in on the huge price gap that exists between the price of gas in the U.S. versus that which exists overseas.

At the moment, there’s a fairly good balance between supply and demand when it comes to the supply of ships and the demand for LNG product to be carried. Qatar, for example, uses 54 LNG carriers to transport their 77 million metric tons per year of LNG. Qatar also has a 70% stake in the Golden Pass LNG terminal in Texas. Additional exports from the US Gulf Coast will directly equal increased demand for more LNG carriers.

While regulators in the US trudge through the LNG export approval process, energy firms like Anadarko charge ahead with an ambitious LNG agenda offshore Mozambique in a field which was recently found to have at least 65 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves. Places like Mozambique, and offshore Israel, have the potential to really change the LNG marketplace given the sheer size of their fields and their proximity to the Asian and European markets respectively.

In Mozambique, two 5 million metric tons per annum (mtpa) LNG trains are currently under construction to support the huge conventional gas finds located 25 miles offshore. Their partners on the project include Mozambiquan state oil company, Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, E.P., India’s state-owned Bharat PetroResources Ltd, Indian private equity firm Videocon Hydrocarbon Holdings, Ltd, Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production, and Mitsui & Co. Considering the partners involved, their target market will predominantly be India and Japan. First LNG production is planned for 2018 and their plans are to eventually ramp up production to 50 million mtpa, or 2/3rds of the current production of Qatar.

What does that mean for LNG shipping? A lot more ships. To handle 50 million mtpa, upwards of 35 LNG carriers may be needed for transportation if you compare the ratio between Qatar’s fleet size and their total LNG exports. Source: gcaptain.com

4209_image002January, 2013 saw the United States and the European Union implemented the mutual recognition arrangement for their respective supply chain security programmes. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) administers the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), which is now recognised as equivalent to the European Union’s Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme.

Should they elect to allow CBP to share certain information with the European Union, US importers authorised under C-TPAT will be considered secure and their exports will receive a lower-risk score by the customs administrations of EU member states. In practice, certification translates into time and money savings for parties dealing with trusted operators. In that sense, certified operators are successfully marketing their status as a distinguishing competitive advantage.

Both programmes are voluntary, security-based programmes aimed at improving supply chain security. As programme members, importers receive lower risk-assessment scores in customs administrations’ computer targeting software. Therefore, members are subject to fewer security-related inspections and controls. The mutual recognition arrangement between the United States and the European Union allows for members of one programme to receive reciprocal benefits when exporting to the other jurisdiction.

However, not all C-TPAT members qualify for full AEO benefits. Only Tiers 2 and 3 C-TPAT importers (considered as more secure) may receive a lower risk-assessment score, and consequently undergo fewer inspections when exporting to an EU member state. In addition, in order to receive these benefits, C-TPAT members must expressly elect for the United States to share certain information with the European Union and certify that their exports meet all applicable requirements.

The mutual recognition arrangement may also exempt members’ facilities from undergoing validation site visits by both administrations when initially being certified or during revalidation visits. This benefit is available for every tier of C-TPAT membership.

The mutual recognition arrangement applies only to C-TPAT importers which also act as exporters. A C-TPAT manufacturer will benefit from the arrangement only if it also acts as the US exporter. For example, if a US company owns a C-TPAT-certified manufacturer in Mexico that directly ships merchandise to the European Union, those shipments will not benefit from the arrangement.

CBP’s targeting system recognises AEO-certified entities by their manufacturer identification number. Certified manufacturers will receive benefits under the arrangement regardless of whether they are the EU exporter. A certified exporter which is not a manufacturer may obtain a manufacturer identification number to gain from the benefits of mutual recognition. As such, AEO-certified manufacturers and exporters may benefit under the arrangement, but only US exporters are eligible for benefits.

Although the United States and the European Union have recently announced the possibility of a US-EU free trade agreement, this arrangement is a trade facilitation measure that companies may elect to participate in immediately, regardless of the results of potential free trade agreement negotiations.

The United States also has mutual recognition arrangements for supply chain security with Canada, Japan, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan. Source:  Sidley Austin LLP, and The International Law Office

sea_freight_trackingCargo traditionally sent by air is increasingly switching to sea as shippers capitalise on the mode’s lower transport costs – a trend expected to continue over the coming years.

Lloyds List reports that several leading freight forwarders reported in their full-year results that certain cargo types — particularly hi-tech and telecoms — switched from air freight to sea freight last year.

DHL Global Forwarding CEO Roger Crook said the switch was the result of a price difference of 10 times between the two modes of transport. He said: “Obviously many companies are under cost pressure and looking to reduce total supply chain costs. Therefore, they are buying and moving by ocean freight, and particularly it is happening in the technology sector.”

Panalpina chief operating officer Karl Weyeneth said he expected the trend to continue. “There is a maximum shift you can achieve, depending on what industry you are talking about,” he said.

“But I believe that now supply chains are used to working with more ocean freight, this impact will stay for at least a couple of years, until the economy has really recovered, then it will start to shift back again.”

“We really see this as an important factor in our market for the next two to three years.”

Kuehne+Nagel (KN) chief executive Reinhard Lange said the decision on whether cargo was suitable to be switched from air to sea partly came down to the weight of the shipment. He said that if two products had the same market value, but one weighed less than the other, the overall cost impact of flying was less for the lighter cargo because air cargo costs were based on weight. He said this explained why hi-tech products had transferred to ocean freight while lighter products, such as pharmaceuticals, had, in the main, continued to utilise air freight.

The forwarders said the impact of the switch from air to ocean freight was partly to blame for a decline in air freight volumes last year, while container volumes continued to grow. In its full-year results, Panalpina saw air freight volumes decline 6% last year while ocean freight volumes grew by the same amount. Meanwhile, DHL Global Forwarding’s air freight volumes slipped 5.3% in 2012 with ocean freight increasing 4.3%, while KN saw its air freight volumes grow by 2% while ocean freight increased 6% year on year. Source: LloydsList

"Uncertain Times" - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said earlier this week that her department would be slashing 5,000 border-patrol agents when the cuts go through, which would ultimately slow some of the busiest crossings between Canada and the U.S.

“Uncertain Times” – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said earlier this week that her department would be slashing 5,000 border-patrol agents when the cuts go through, which would ultimately slow some of the busiest crossings between Canada and the U.S.

Is this a process of auto-destabilisation in the USA? At least terrorists aren’t being blamed for this……will be interesting to see what instructions are fed to CBP (US Customs) Field Operations in foreign countries where the Megaports and CSI initiatives are in operation. Besides being grave times , I’d say these are interesting times…

Lloyds reports that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is warning of major delays for incoming containers and other cargo at seaports because of sequestration, but early reports suggest that business is operating normally on arterial waterfronts, at least for now.

In a letter to cargo and travel industry groups after automatic cuts to federal spending, known as sequester cuts or sequestration, went into effect at the weekend, CBP deputy commissioner David Aguilar said the agency faced “furloughs, reductions in overtime and a hiring freeze, [which] would equate to the loss of up to several thousand CBP officers at our ports of entry, in addition to significant cuts to our operating budgets and programmes”.

Describing the current phase as an “uncertain time”, Aguilar warned of major disruption for travellers and cargo.

For the latter, sequestration could result in “decreased service levels in our cargo operations, including increased and potentially escalating delays for container examinations of up to five days or more at major seaports, and significant daily back-ups at land border ports of entry”.

CBP also issued a set of “cargo priorities under sequestration”, which vowed that security would not be compromised, but said that “CBP has redirected resources toward only the most critical, core functions and discontinued or postponed certain important but less critical activities in an effort to reduce budget expenditures”.

The agency said it would hold weekly conference calls to update the industry about the situation.

Shippers and cargo interests agreed that five-day delays could cause major bottlenecks at container ports, and would cost shippers extra money during an already challenging economic time.

The only consolation would be that individual ports or shippers would not have to worry about rival ports siphoning business away, because every US port would be up against the same problem.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported normal operations and said in a statement that it continued to monitor the situation.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie appeared unimpressed with the threat attributed to sequestration.

“I do not think sequestration at one cent on the dollar is going to have grave effect, or anybody is going to notice it all that much, except for some federal employees who will be furloughed,” He told a press conference.

The sequester cuts $85 billion, or 2.4% of the annual federal budget of $3.6 trillion, to be spread over seven months to September 30.

Roughly half the sum involves defence, and there appears to be discretion in where precisely the cuts are administered.

Nevertheless, the shipping industry is taking the matter seriously. Other than cargo delays, the maritime sector is factoring in reduced maintenance dredging and a degradation of some US Coast Guard functions, including search and rescue, as possible effects of the sequester cuts. Source: LloydsList