Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do You Keep Your Manifest Information CONFIDENTIAL?

Did you know importers and consignees can request that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) keep your manifest information confidential?

If you are currently letting your competitors know your source, read on, and learn how to keep your private data private!
Pursuant to the privacy statute, 19 C.F.R. § 103.31 (d) the public is allowed to collect manifest data (e.g., bills of lading) at every port of entry. This information is limited to vessel manifests. Air, rail, and truck manifests are not available to the general public in any form.

Websites such as, and (to name a few) collect and publish the names of importers, suppliers, and manufacturers from vessel manifest data. This can be troubling for some, as your competitors are able to access information related to the sourcing and/ or manufacturing of your products. However, an importer/shipper may make a request to CBP for confidentiality. The confidential protection is valid for 2 years, thereafter, you have to renew your request.

The public may obtain manifest data at every port of entry. However, Section 103.31 states that
Only the name and address of the shipper, general characteristics of the cargo, number of packages, gross weight, name of the vessel, port of exit, port of destination, and country of destination may be copied and published.
The regulation also states that
An importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of its name and address contained in inward manifests, to include identifying marks and numbers. In addition, an importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of the name and address of the shipper or shippers to such importer or consignee.
It is essential that you send in renewal requests 60 days prior to the expiration of the 2 year confidentiality period. The importer will receive a response when the confidentiality request has been granted and it will state the effective time period.

CBP sent a message to trade on Feburary 7, 2013 (CSMS #13-000064), titled "improperly formatted ACE ocean manifest data resulting in release of confidential data." CBP made it clear that after an importer requests confidentiality, and its granted by CBP, the importer must be sure the commercial party names submitted to CBP always match - CBP will not grant confidentiality if you use any variation of the name originally requested. One incorrect keystroke by an individual who is processing the information can result in a new variation of company information that is not covered by the grant of confidentiality. CBP has stated that the release of confidential data is strictly the result of improper data entry by users and not by CBP programming or system errors.

To assure you send an effective request for confidentiality and so your competitors don't have access to your private data, contact me today!

Monday, April 8, 2013

File Your Petitions Timely, Or Else...

As of January 9, 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is making procrastinators pay the price for filing untimely petitions that seek relief from liquidated damages. CBP amended it’s guidelines for the cancellation and mitigation of claims for liquidated damages in cases where petitioners are late in filing claims for relief. Additionally, CBP also changed the formula for calculating late petition mitigation.

Current Rule for Timely Petitions

Under the existing regulatory authority, in order to be considered timely, petitions for relief in response to claims for liquidated damages must be filed:

•A. By bond principals within 60 days from the date of mailing of the notice of liquidated damages (see 19 C.F.R. 172.3(b)) or any lawful extension thereof; or

•B. By sureties within 60 days of the demand for payment by CBP (see 19 C.F.R. 172.4) or any lawful extension thereof.

When circumstances so warrant, extensions of the time period to file a petition may be granted by the FP&F Officer (FPFO) if such an extension of time is requested during the 60-day period available for timely filing a petition (see 19 C.F.R. 172.3(c)). The amendment to the current rule does not allow a petition for relief to be considered if it is filed after (a) the commencement of sanctioning action against the bond principal or (b) the issuance of a notice to show cause against the surety.

A party responsible for a liquidated damages claim may submit an offer in compromise to CBP pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1617 and 19 C.F.R. 161.5. These new guidelines, which will be applicable to all liquidated damages claims for which a late petition is filed on or after Jan. 9, are applicable only to petitions for relief and do not apply to offers in compromise submitted pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1617 and 19 C.F.R. 161.53.

Consequently, the new mitigation guidelines concerning untimely petitions will impose a more stringent standard. Untimely petitions will be accepted or considered only if the petitioner is able to demonstrate the existence of extraordinary circumstances that prevented the petitioner from filing a timely petition or timely seeking a lawful extension of time in which to file a petition. What does that mean? The FPFO will exercise his or her discretion in determining whether circumstances existed so as to warrant CBP’s consideration or acceptance of a late petition.

Untimely Petitions will NO longer be Accepted

Subject to the permitted exceptions, no untimely petition will be accepted in any circumstance if it is filed:

a. More than 180 days after the date of mailing of the notice of claim to the bond principal, or in the case of a surety, the date of mailing of the first demand on surety;

b. After the petitioner has previously submitted a petition in the same case and/or been offered mitigation in the same case, and such mitigation amount was not paid within the prescribed period;

c After the claim has been referred to Office of Chief Counsel for collection action;

d. After the commencement of sanctioning action against the bond principal; or

e. After the issuance of a notice to show cause against a surety.

CBP notes that (a) an untimely petition is not a supplemental petition described in 19 C.F.R. 172.41, (b) a supplemental petition must be timely filed following a decision on an original petition filed in accordance with the established regulatory time frames, (c) the rejection of an untimely petition does not constitute a “decision” for purposes of 19 C.F.R. 172.41, and (d) petitions that are filed untimely and not accepted for consideration will be rejected. A party responsible for a liquidated damages claim may submit an offer in compromise to CBP pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1617 and 19 C.F.R. 161.5.

The Exceptions…

However, untimely petitions for relief of liquidated damages claims issued for the late filing of an entry summary, the late payment of estimated duties (including under the periodic monthly statement test), the late payment of passenger processing fees or the late filing or late payment of reconciliation entries may be accepted without regard to the limitations expressed in paragraphs a and b above at any time prior to the circumstances described in paragraphs c through e.

New Mitigation Calculation for Late Petitions

CBP has also implemented a new calculation for mitigating liquidated damages for untimely petitions. In calculating the mitigated amount on a late petition, CBP will first determine the base amount (i.e., the amount of mitigation that would have been afforded on a timely petition). CBP will then determine the “additional mitigation amount” by multiplying the full assessed amount of the claim by 0.1 percent (.001) and then multiply by the number of days the petition is late (i.e., .001 times the number of days late times the full assessed claim amount.) The product will be the additional amount which will be added to the base amount to produce the mitigated amount applied to the untimely filed petition. In no case will the additional mitigated amount to be added to the base amount be less than $400. For example, a $100,000 liquidated damages claim for which a petition is filed 30 days late will be mitigated to the amount provided by the guidelines plus an additional amount calculated by the new formula (30 days late x .001 = .03 x 100,000 = $3,000 added charge.)

Bottom line, assure you have an expert Customs attorney assisting you to fight for mitigation of Liquidated Damages claims, and file your Petitions TIMELY!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Seizure Averted - Why a Customs Lawyer is Essential at Detention

Sitting with your head down moping about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding your goods is never the right answer!

Two days ago, a potential client called and explained that a valuable shipment was detained by CBP. The potential client asked if I could help recoup the goods from CBP, during this detention phase, or if they should wait.

When I get this question, I always want to scream, NOW!!  This is the most essential time an importer has.  Here's the real question - do you want an expert in Customs law to assist you before your goods are guaranteed to be stuck in CBP for months, or work on getting them back for you NOW?!

I always request pertinent information about the commodity and the supposed rationale for the detention (if you don't have this information yet, I help you get it). In this case, the potential client adamantly stated that the goods were legitimate, gray market goods; however, CBP was skeptical.

I advised the potential client that obtaining my services at this point would be the BEST option so I could clearly determine and explain to CBP the legitimacy of the merchandise and demand the release. After being hired, I immediately began working on the case due to the exigency of the circumstances. My tasks were to understand the basics of the commodity, learn the history of the product, and prove the legitimacy of the goods before CBP made a decision to seize them.

The consequences of not taking these immediate actions would be the potential seizure of the goods. More importantly, if the goods are seized by CBP, it could take several months (sometimes years) before they may be released.  The great news is within 1 business day I was able to convince CBP that the goods were in fact legitimate gray market goods, and they were released.  Waiting an extra week to get me involved would have been the difference between a detention by CBP (and release of the goods) or CBP's seizure of the goods, and many months (or years) before the goods were released (with storage fees to pay!).

Thereafter, I worked with this client and discussed pre-compliance - which is especially important to understand why the detention occurred in the first place and how to avoid a similar situation from re-occurring.

Hiring an expert in CBP laws, prior to the seizure of the merchandise saved this client much time and a considerable amount of expenses. If your business is going through a similar issue with CBP, contact me during the detention phase, preferably before the seizure notice is issued!