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Electronic prior notice rule finalized by U.S. Customs

OTTAWA, Ont. -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today published its final rule for electronic prior notice...

OTTAWA, Ont. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today published its final rule for electronic prior notice of imports into the U.S.

While the rule officially takes effect Jan. 5, 2004, inbound truck cargo will be subject to the prior notice requirement only after CBP has given the industry 90 days notice. Carriers will be notified through publication in the Federal Register those ports of entry where:

1. the approved data exchange is in place and fully operational; and
2. the carrier must commence the presentation of the required cargo information through the approved system.

At this time, no ports of entry capable of handling electronic prior notice have been identified by CBP.

The final rule published today is unchanged from the version sent to Congress for its approval on November 20.

The prior notice period for FAST shipments by truck into the US will be 30 minutes prior to arrival at the border, and for all other truck cargo, one hour.

The phasing-in of the new system at individual ports should be of some assistance to carriers in making the transition. Nonetheless, the Canadian trucking industry remains concerned that the vast amounts of data to be transmitted and screened for over $530 million in imports carried by truck from Canada every day may well result in border delays and pose a threat to just-in-time delivery schedules.

According to Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley, "the goals of the new measures increased security and trade facilitation are laudable. However, it is difficult to imagine that an import screening system this massive and complex can be implemented without some disruption of cross-border trade flows, at least in the short term. One of the hardest hit will be the less-than-truckload sector. LTL carriers will have to provide individual prior notice for every shipment on the truck."

Of equal concern to Canadian truckers is the US Food and Drug Administration’s upcoming requirement for prenotification of food imports, which takes effect on December 12. The FDA has mandated a 2-hour prior notice requirement for food imports, which make up a significant part of all merchandise shipped by truck to the US. "While CBP and FDA have said they are trying to coordinate their systems, the different prior notice periods have the potential to create havoc for international carriers," said Bradley.

Carriers transporting controlled food items even if they are only part of a load will have to comply with the FDA requirement, and give 2 hours notice before arriving at the border. This is despite the fact that FAST-certified carriers would otherwise be subject to only 30 minutes prior notice for the rest of the cargo. Bradley stated, "Clearly, CBP and FDA have some work ahead of them if they are to avoid significant disruptions of truck traffic between Canada and the U.S."

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