The US Department of Homelands Security has announced that as of 15 October 2008, all loaded maritime cargo containers entering the US must be secured with high-security seals meeting the ISO/PAS 17712 standard. This regulation, the latest development in the C-TPAT (Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism) initiative, includes foreign cargo remaining on board (FROB).
In addition, the details of all seal numbers must be included in the Vessel Automated Manifest System sent to US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at least 24 hours before cargo is loaded aboard a vessel at a foreign port.
For C-TPAT participants this regulation is not new – many maritime cargo containers entering the US are already secured with ISO/PAS 17712 compliant high-security seals. However, it is now required of ALL containers entering the US by sea. According to the CBP, 90% of all cargo worldwide moves by container, emphasising the importance of the announcement.
ISO/PAS 17712 requires that container freight seals meet or exceed certain standards for strength and durability so as to prevent accidental breakage, early deterioration (due to weather conditions, chemical action, etc), or undetectable tampering under normal usage. The standard also requires that each seal be clearly and legibly marked with a unique identification number.
The CBP recognises that some types of containers cannot be readily secured by use of a seal meeting the ISO/PAS 17712 standard. These containers – which include tanks, non-standard containers such as open top containers and some custom-built containers – are not subject to the statutory requirement.
The new regulation will be considered violated if a loaded container subject to the sealing requirements arrives by ship at a port of entry in the United States with no seal or with a seal that does not meet the standard. The CBP will phase in the assessment of penalties for violation of container sealing requirements.
The new regulation has several implications for South African exporters to the US, says Kevin Norwitz, MD of Vikela Aluvin (Aluvin), a leading South African manufacturer and distributor of security sealing products.
“Firstly, the correct seal has to be used on a container. Secondly, proof is needed that the seal is genuinely C-TPAT compliant, requiring verification of test results at an ISO accredited test laboratory. Thirdly, seals have to be procured from manufacturers and/or suppliers that comply with the duties and responsibilities of ISO/PAS 17712,” says Norwitz.
“Many seal suppliers are claiming compliance but do not have the supporting documentation to prove this,” says Norwitz. “Exporters and shippers should thus exercise caution in the purchasing of seals in order to avoid problems at US ports of entry.”
For more information contact Kevin Norwitz, Vikela Aluvin, +27 (0)11 825 3648, firstname.lastname@example.org
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