Forwarders File Comments on Import Rules

June 3, 2009
National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America say lack of timely information for Importer Security Filing may hamper compliance.

Difficulty obtaining timely bill-of-lading information could hamper US importers' ability to comply with the interim final rule for the Importer Security Filing, says the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association.

“It has become evident to the trade that not all carriers electronically create or collect the container lading date and time,” said the comment filed by the NCBFAA. “As such this information is neither visible to the trade, nor to [US Customs and Border Protection] for an accurate measurement of compliance with Section III, C, we believe that this in effect creates a barrier to submitting an accurate ISF data 24 hours prior to lading, as this time element is neither published nor known to parties in a normal commercial environment. We suggest that compliance with the rule be measured against a known collected data element to allow for requisite transparency, predictability and reliability for enforcement,” continued NCBFAA.

“We believe that the continued flexibility in timing of these data elements remains critical to the trade in ensuring that accurate data is transmitted for targeting purposes.”

Additionally, said NCBFAA, the Interim Final Rule provides that "four elements will be subject to flexibility as to interpretation.” These elements are the manufacturer (or supplier), ship-to party, country of origin, and commodity number under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule for the US (HTSUS).

There is no special timing flexibility for these elements; noted NCBFAA, they must be filed 24 hours prior to lading. However, CBP has added flexibility by allowing ISF Importers, in their initial filing, to provide a range of acceptable responses based on facts available to the importer at the time, in lieu of a single specific response (which may become known to the importer only at a later time).

The education of overseas supply chain participants, suppliers, and vendors is taking a significant amount of time, continued the NCBFAA, and it is especially difficult for those importer clients who have multiple supply chains in a number of countries. “ISF Importers face a significant challenge in their efforts to first explain the ISF requirements to their supply chain partners and to then extract the necessary information in a timely manner.” NCBFAA encouraged CBP to maintain the flexibility of these data elements to facilitate the receipt of the required screening data in a timely manner.

NCBFAA concluded that, as the Federal Register Notice indicated, as part of the analysis of the final rule CBP may gather information by conducting reviews of particular importers to determine whether submission of all 10 data elements 24 hours prior to lading was in fact feasible and, if not, what barriers the importer encountered. “If a review of this nature has been undertaken,” said NCBFAA, “we encourage CBP to share the results of this review with the trade for informational purposes highlighting best practices where found, while maintaining the confidentiality of the participants.”

NCBFAA's full comment is available at