US unveils new air-cargo security proposals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 12:00am

Little opposition is expected after an earlier attempt failed

United States Customs authorities yesterday unveiled new proposals for regulations governing airborne exports to the US, with the rules requiring cargo data for shipments from Asia to be electronically registered four hours before landing.

The security proposals, formed by the US Customs and Border Patrol, appear to take into consideration the multinational consultation that in May roundly rejected old proposals many said would bring the global supply chain for high-value products to a halt.

'This is what the industry here requested,' Hong Kong Shippers' Council executive director Sunny Ho Lap-kee said. 'As long as the submission of manifest data was based on pre-arrival as opposed to pre-departure timing, it was always going to be acceptable to the industry. This is good news.'

In February, US Customs authorities suggested air-cargo manifests be submitted 12 hours before take-off for general freight and eight hours for express as part of their growing mandate to protect the country from terrorist attacks by air.

But the suggestions, known as the strawman proposals, were opposed, most strongly by influential express operators such as United Parcel Service for which time is most critical.

The US market is the biggest for South China exporters, who will move almost 350,000 tonnes to America through Hong Kong this year.

The airport's biggest air-cargo handler, Hongkong Air Cargo Terminals, handled more than 145,900 tonnes in the first half, up 3.8 per cent year on year.

The new proposals are to be posted on the US Federal Register on Thursday and the industry will have 30 days for further comments, but little opposition is anticipated this time as they appear to address the previous concerns.

'We are encouraged that [US Customs] have substantially moved the deadline. This will serve as a better starting ground for further consultation,' said a spokeswoman for the Hongkong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics. 'We think we will be able to provide most of the data they need before the cargo doors shut, but we will have to wait for more details to be sure.'

The proposals for cargo data for exports from the US require submission two hours before departure.

With a few exceptions, US Customs said the rules would be put into effect in 90 days, or near October 20. All data would have to be submitted via the US Customs Automated Manifest System.