Importers benefit by working with Customs
Heath E. Combs, Furniture/Today -- Home Accents Today, 7/28/2011 2:33:06 AM
SOMETIMES THE WHEELS of commerce need a little grease and some extra effort can go a long way, according to Michael Roll, a partner in the law firm Pisani & Roll.
The firm specializes in international trade and customs law. Roll, speaking at the Sandow Media Logistics Conference, said there are a few steps importers can take to help avoid having their cargo pulled for inspections - which in turn, can give them a competitive advantage.
Roll said importers should become certified in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, or CTPAT, program.
The voluntary program was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to help identify security risks at ports. The program can benefit importers by giving them reduced inspections by Customs officials and expedited cargo processing.
Roll said an importer's customers may look favorably at the certification.
To join the C-TPAT program, importers must sign documents saying they'll adhere to conditions of the program, submit information on their supply chain and be subject to an audit to make sure their application is correct, he said.
As of April, Roll said 10,000 companies are part of the program, including about 4,000 importers.
Roll added that Customs officials are also now doing validations in China, which go further back in the supply chain and result in more benefits to the importer when cargo is in transit.
While the program has no application fee, companies often hire a consultant or lawyer to help with the process, he said.
Another, more recent regulation Roll discussed requiring footwork by importers is commonly referred to as 10+2. The program requires an Importer Security Filing and is called 10+2 because it requires 10 data elements from importers and two additional ones from cargo vessel carrier ships.
Information requested includes where goods were manufactured, buyer addresses, importer number, tariff number and container numbers, among other items, Roll said.
While much of the information gathered is already on a ship's manifest, importers still need to have a way to gather this information to make sure both records are consistent, he said.
"You need to have a system in your company for gathering these 10 data elements before they start moving to the U.S. - well before they start moving toward the U.S.," Roll said.
He said he believes the government will tighten its enforcement of the 10+2 rule at some point this year, and that failure to comply could result in thousands of dollars in penalties.
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