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U.S. Imposes New Rule on Sea Containers

October 31, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Customs Service said Wednesday it will require sea carriers to provide details of the contents of containers destined for this country 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto ships at foreign ports.

The agency's new rule marks its latest effort to prevent terrorists from bringing nuclear and other deadly weapons into the United States.

"Terrorist organizations pose an immediate and substantial threat to the global trading system," said Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. "With this rule, customs can better protect the American people and the global trading system as a whole from the threat of nuclear terror using sea containers."

Companies that fail to provide accurate manifest information 24 hours before loading would be subject to fines under the rule. Bonner, however, has said customs also can prevent a company from unloading a cargo container, an option at its disposal to penalize violators.

Barring a noncompliant sea carrier from entering a U.S. port would be "highly unlikely," said customs spokesman Dennis Murphy.

Customs said the regulation won't apply to ships carrying bulk cargo, such as oil, grain, coal or lumber.

Some of the manifest information that would have to be provided in advance includes a precise description of each container's contents, date of scheduled arrival in the U.S., the foreign port of departure, shipper's name and address and vessel name and number, said Murphy.

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