Customs' 24-hour rule to take effect Feb. 1

| 1/21/2003

Starting Feb. 1, carriers must provide details of the contents of sea containers destined for the United States 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto ships at foreign ports, the chief of the U.S. Customs Service said Jan. 14.

The new rule aims to prevent terrorists from bringing nuclear and other deadly weapons into the United States. Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said the service would begin enforcing the rule Feb. 2.

Steve Stivala, president of Seattle transloader MacMillan-Piper Inc., called the rule "the hot potato, especially for the import community" as reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

"Everybody's kind of concerned about how this will shake out," he said. "That could hold up cargo significantly, depending on what happens over there and how stringent they're going to be."

Companies that fail to provide accurate manifest information 24 hours before loading could be barred from unloading cargo containers at a U.S. port and could be fined, Bonner said.

Some of the information required in advance includes a precise description of each container's contents, date of scheduled arrival in the United States, the foreign port of departure, shipper's name and address and vessel name and number.