Customs will require cargo information in advance

The Customs and Border Protection Bureau plans to obtain advance information, in electronic format, on goods transported to and from the United States by air, truck, rail and sea, and run the data through an automated targeting system linked to various law enforcement databases.

Under rules the bureau proposed yesterday, cargo transporters would have a specific amount of time to alert Customs about what they are carrying before crossing U.S. borders. Truckers, for instance, would have to notify Customs 30 minutes to one hour before crossing the U.S. border.

The proposed regulations, which would be implemented under the Trade Act of 2002 passed last year, are intended to help identify shipments that pose a potential terrorist risk. The regulations are similar to a Canadian Customs proposal. Final rules will be released in the fall following a period of public comment.

'Advance cargo information is essential to not only preventing instruments of terrorism from being shipped into this country, but also to speed the flow of legitimate cargo across our borders,' said Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge in a statement.

Truckers now are admitted into the country without this automated targeting because Customs receives its cargo data on paper on arrival. As a consequence, the process for assessing the risks associated with these shipments cannot be done before arrival at the border and makes movement across the border slow and inefficient.

'The proposed regulations are the result of a careful and considered effort to strike the appropriate balance between security and trade facilitation,' Customs and Border Protection commissioner Robert Bonner said in a statement.

Shippers by air would be required to notify Customs four hours before arriving in the United States; by rail, two hours; and by ship, 24 hours. Those exporting goods by air must notify Custom two hours before departure; by rail, four hours; by ship, 24 hours; and by truck two hours before border crossing.

In related events, the Coast Guard earlier this month released interim final rules on port security as part of the Maritime Transportation and Security Act. Among the regulations, ship owners and operators and port facilities must designate a security officer and develop a transportation security incident response plan. By the end of next year, the Coast Guard will require certain vessels to be equipped with an automatic identification system, which includes a position-indicating transponder and an electronic charting or situation display for accessing the information disclosed by the transponder system.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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