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20 November 2003

U.S. to Require Advance Info on All Cross-Border Shipments

Documents critical to secure borders, unimpeded trade flows, DHS's Ridge says

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has announced new rules concerning advance cargo information intended primarily to prevent terrorist from using cross-border shipments to smuggle weapons and operatives into the United States.

Speaking November 20 at a U.S. Customs symposium in Washington, Ridge said that advance cargo information covered by the final rules of the Trade Act of 2002 just published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a "cornerstone" in U.S. efforts to secure the country's borders against terrorism without delaying the flow of goods.

Ridge said that the rules will apply to all modes of transportation but advance notice and manifest timelines will vary.

In a November 20 news release, DHS said that the regulations, to become effective in 15 days, also will cover outbound shipments.

Ridge explained that the advance notices' application to outbound cargo is not only a matter of reciprocity toward countries providing information on incoming goods but also a necessity dictated by the need to prevent smuggling of arms and technology out of the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert Bonner, who joined Ridge to answer questions from reporters, said that the new rules will allow the CBP bureau in the department to have for the first time control over every shipment crossing U.S. borders.

"It will make America safer," he said.

With more complete and timely cargo information, CBP will be able to reduce the number of inspections and focus attention on high-risk shipments, Bonner added.

He said that the new "smart" border regime will afford the greatest benefits to around 4,600 Custom-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) members, which include major importers, shippers, and customs brokers with profiles, procedures, and supply-chains certified by CBP as secure.

"It will make flow of legitimate cargo faster and more efficient," Bonner said.

He said that his bureau will be pushing for electronic rather than paper manifests and advance notices but added that the new regulations will be phased in over several months in close cooperation with the trade community.

On the related issue of cargo container security, Bonner said that within a month his bureau will launch a "smart" container pilot program, which will involve a half a dozen of C-TPAT members. If the program turns out to be successful, he said he expects it to expand in the C-TPAT group in the next several months.

"Smart container" technology would allow customs inspectors without opening the container to see if it was tampered with or opened.

Out of around 16 million cargo containers that enter the country every year only a small percentage is inspected by U.S. Customs agents. U.S. authorities are concerned that these containers can be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction or materials for dirty bombs.

Following is the text of the DHS news release:

(begin text)

Office of the Press Secretary
November 20, 2003


Washington, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security today released final rules which will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect cargo information necessary to identify high-risk shipments which could threaten the safety and security of the United States. The final rules for cargo security address the timeline of presentation for electronic advance manifest information.

"We need to take advantage of every opportunity to make our country safe from terrorists and terrorist weapons," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "Advance information is a cornerstone in our efforts to secure our nation's borders and ensure the flow of trade. The security measures resulting from these rules are necessary to achieve these twin goals."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will process advance cargo information into an automated targeting system linked to various law enforcement and commercial databases. This initial step will enable CBP to efficiently identify shipments that pose a potential risk. Previously most non-maritime inbound shipments entered into the U.S. without being screened by an automated targeting system. As a result, most cargo shipments could not be assessed for risk prior to arrival. The Trade Act provides the Department of Homeland Security with the authority to eliminate antiquated, paper-driven processes for cargo crossing our borders.

"When we are able to obtain better information prior to a shipment's arrival, we will be able to do a more effective job in combating terrorism," said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security. "These rules will do just that."

"This takes us beyond the maritime 24-Hour Rule to incorporate advance electronic information for all cargo shipments to the U.S., pertaining to commercial trucking, air freight and rail. It is a bold but necessary move to better secure our borders against the terrorist threat without delaying the flow of legitimate trade," said CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection received significant input from the trade community and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). CBP carefully considered and in many cases adopted the trades' recommendations. CBP will work closely with the trade community to phase in these rules over the coming months.

The following are the timelines for all modes of transportation:


-- Air & Courier - 4 hours prior to arrival in U.S., or "wheels up" from certain nearby areas

-- Rail - 2 hours prior to arrival at a U.S. port of entry

-- Vessel - 24 hours prior to lading at foreign port

-- Truck - Free And Secure Trade (FAST): 30 minutes prior to arrival in U.S.; non-FAST: 1 hour prior to arrival in the U.S.


-- Air & Courier - 2 hours prior to scheduled departure from the U.S.

-- Rail - 2 hours prior to the arrival of the train at the border

-- Vessel - 24 hours prior to departure from U.S. port where cargo is laden

-- Truck - 1 hour prior to the arrival of the truck at the border

(end text)