- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection service is letting slide a target date for new rules that would tighten security at the borders and pile on new requirements for truck, rail and air cargo carriers that ship goods in and out of the country.

The rules, which had been scheduled for publication yesterday, would require carriers to provide customs with cargo manifests before their freight actually reaches the border. The notice is meant to allow agents to target shipments for terrorist links.

“This is a large regulation package with numerous offices involved,” Elizabeth Durant, executive director of trade compliance and facilitation at the agency, said in explaining the delay. Another official said customs hopes to publish the final rules before the end of the month.

After September 11, Congress mandated new security requirements at U.S. ports, including rules that require cargo carriers to send a manifest to customs prior to arrival in or departure from the United States.

Customs implemented rules for sea carriers and extended its reach to foreign ports while also undergoing a major reorganization, shifting from being a bureau under the Treasury Department to the new Department of Homeland Security.

The preliminary rules for truck, air and rail carriers have been written, but the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget have not signed off on them, customs said.

The Trade Act of 2002 had required customs to “endeavor” to publish the regulations by yesterday.

Meanwhile, industry officials remain concerned that customs is not prepared to implement the rules, and that they will harm business and the economy.

“We’re just as concerned with economic security as with national security,” said Martin Rojas, director of cross-border operations at the American Trucking Associations, an Alexandria-based business group.

The trucking industry, for example, does not yet have a way to send cargo manifests electronically, and air cargo carriers are expected to have to invest heavily in new software and equipment.

Customs in July published preliminary rules to obtain advance information on shipments, a requirement of the Trade Act of 2002.

Air shipment officials would notify customs four hours prior to arrival at a U.S. port of entry and two hours prior to departure from the United States, rail would notify two hours prior to arrival and four hours before an engine is attached to take a shipment out of the country, and trucks would notify from 30 minutes to one hour prior to arrival at the border, depending on participation in security-related programs.

“The advance time is meant to allow [Customs and Border Protection] to target shipments for security concerns, so that examination may be accomplished as soon as possible upon arrival, or before goods leave the country,” said John Considine, director of cargo verification for customs.

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