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US Customs Introduces New Rules to Fight Terrorism - 2003-04-09

The cost of terrorism is being felt in many places and in many ways -- including the shipping industry. The United States has imposed new rules for shipping containers coming in from other countries. Under the guidelines, US customs authorities must be informed about all containers being shipped to the United States at least 24 hours before they're shipped. The new regulations are expected to drive up costs, and one place where this is being felt is Kenya.

At the port of Mombasa, a shipping consortium called East Africa Conference Lines has introduced a US $ 25 Safety Documentation Fee– or surcharge -- for each container of goods heading to the United States. The consortium says the surcharge was imposed to offset the extra costs it will incur as a result of the new rules.

Silvester Kututa is the secretary of the Kenya Chapter of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. He says the new rules of the US Customs authorities -- although well intended – will complicate shipping. He says, "It is going to be affecting because in the past we used to ship goods straight away. You make a booking with a shipping line and then just ship your cargo without getting any approval -- because you could book your cargo today and ship it. But with the 24-hour manifest submittal, the first thing that will happen is you can not book today and get an approval the same day."

Under the new rules, exporters are also required to give a clear description of goods, the container and seal numbers, and details of the shipper and the party receiving the goods. Mr Kututa says the regulations will hurt shippers who do not provide the required information: "It is either the US Customs authorities will impound the goods, refuse to discharge them, or if they are discharged and upon verification the goods are found to be different from what was described those goods are bound to be destroyed or returned on the same vessel at the shippers cost."

The new rules by US Customs are part of security measures the US Government has put in place to fight terrorism following the September 11th attacks in the United States.

Maritime experts say the new regulations will change export documentation procedures around the world for exporters, shipping lines and forwarders. Mr Kututa says complying with rules will require all parties to invest in highly skilled staff, facilities, technology and storage areas for containers.

He said cargo insurance premiums are likely to rise due to the possible rejection of goods that are not appropriately registered. He said the cost of insurance will run into millions of dollars for shipping lines which do business at US ports.