One of Hong Kong's top shipping line executives has rounded on SAR exporters, saying their compliance with new security regulations leaves 'a lot be desired', and their obstinacy could cripple the flow of goods to the US. With six weeks left until manifests for maritime cargo have to be filed with the United States Customs Service 24 hours before US-bound shipments leave port, Maersk Sealand (HK) managing director Claus Hemmingsen said only 10 per cent of shipments were compliant. 'We are only six weeks away from the expiry of the grace period and [there is] a lot to be desired in terms of shippers' adherence to procedures,' said Mr Hemmingsen, the top executive at the Hong Kong branch of the world's largest container line. 'A snapshot of [last week] indicates that only 43 per cent of the containers loaded had sufficient information to forward to US Customs, out of which 80 per cent required revisions after vessel departure,' he said. 'In other words, had this been after [the grace period] only 10 per cent of the shipments to North America would have been loaded.' The US Customs Service introduced the new manifest regulations last month to assist in the early detection of shipments posing a terrorist threat. Failure to comply, US Customs said, would result in heavy penalties, stateside customs clearance delays of up to five days, or 'no load' orders from the regulator at the port of origin. Shippers have until February 1 to comply with a demand which drastically changes the way they have traditionally done business. In the past, they have been allowed 14 days after a vessel leaves port to list a container's contents, a liberty which allowed for last-minute consolidation and maximisation of shipment space. Mr Hemmingsen said: 'The number of amendments to the cargo details after vessel departure has exploded . . . drastic measures of significant penalties for amendments might be needed to ensure improved data quality.' The shipping lines are growing increasingly agitated by what they perceive as a lack of urgency in the exporting community because the carriers will bear the brunt of any penalties for non-compliance. 'Shippers seem very reluctant to change their old habits of picking up the containers at the last minute and are not volunteering the accurate cargo details until after the vessel sails,' Mr Hemmingsen said. 'The risk of serious [levels of] rejection of cargo in Hong Kong is real and if customers are not using the grace period to comply we could have a very dramatic situation in February.' The Census and Statistics Bureau will today release data showing that laden exports to the US grew 5 per cent in the first three quarters, to 1.7 million teu (20-foot equivalent units) - truck-sized containers. With about 6,200 boxes moving each day to the US from the port, even a 10 per cent 'no load' factor would cause havoc at Kwai Chung, site of the main container terminals. 'This could potentially be a disaster for shippers, importers, shipping lines and logistics companies as most of the shipments would inevitably be delayed. Extra storage costs would then be incurred and importers will not get their cargo on time,' Mr Hemmingsen said. US Customs says all manifest submissions must be made through the Automated Manifest Service. But shippers and forwarders say less than 10 per cent of them can access the system. They also say they are loath to give what amounts to commercially sensitive data to compliant companies to file on their behalf.