US CBP Pushing Ahead with Controversial Tanker Residue Reporting Requirements
OTTAWA… US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that after two years of delay, it is forging ahead with a requirement for mandatory reporting of residue in tanker trailers entering the United States.
CBP said that soft enforcement will begin on September 29th, 2012 followed by full enforcement on December 28th, 2012. However, as the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) points out, there are key questions and concerns with the requirement that are still unanswered. The agency has yet to explain to the industry what either hard or soft enforcement will mean, or how the trading community is expected to comply.
The highly controversial rule, originally published on July 17th, 2009, will require all empty tanker trucks, ISO 20-foot tanks, rail tanks and large bulk carriers to provide a manifest and file a customs entry for all cargo residues entering the United States. Prior to this change, cargo residue was treated as part of the Instrument of International Traffic, exempting it from manifest and entry requirements. Under the ruling, residue left in a tank truck after unloading will have to be measured and valued -- basically treated like any other commodity for CBP purposes. CBP’s supposed rationale for the rule is to safeguard the health and safety of its front-line officers. However, the ruling extends beyond chemicals and hazardous materials to include all liquid or dry bulk commodities, including such things as corn syrup.
CBP has not provided clear answers on a number of practical questions from industry, including how to assign value to a residual quantity which in essence has no value, or how to determine the weight of residue when it can’t be seen inside a tanker. CBP’s response has been to warn carriers that simply reporting a ‘zero or near zero’ value could raise a red flag with CBP officers and may lead to increased inspections at the border.
There are significant questions about the ownership of the residue – an important liability consideration – that CBP has left unanswered, except to say that where there is no clear owner or importer of record, the residual cargo can be deemed abandoned by the consignee, thus making the carrier by default the owner. CTA says this could expose carriers to new penalties and fines and force them to begin obtaining importer bonds or securing the services of a customs broker to comply with entry filing requirements.
CTA is concerned that if the burden of compliance rests with carriers, it could also impact negatively on a trucker’s ability to use the border FAST lanes.
“None of this makes much sense in the context of the new Perimeter Vision Action Plan and the agreement on better borders and reduced red tape, recently agreed to by the Canadian and US governments,” says the CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), David Bradley. “Despite repeated requests from industry on both sides of the border, CBP has failed to provide any meaningful guidance about how it will enforce the new rules or what will reasonably be expected from carriers in order to comply,” he says. “It looks like CBP doesn’t know itself but for some reason is pushing ahead anyway.”
The best advice that CTA can offer to carriers whose trucks enter the United States with residual quantities of any commodity still left in the tanker is that they should engage their customers in discussions to ensure the importer or owner of the residual commodities is clearly indicated.