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Government Watchdog Calls on CBP to Enforce Compliance with Importer Security Filing Requirements

A recent report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office states that CBP needs to better evaluate the effectiveness of the importer security filing rule as well as its own strategies to enforce that rule. Utilising CBP’s compliance and enforcement data for 2012 through 2015, this report addresses importers’ and carriers’ submission rates for ISF rule requirements, CBP’s actions to enforce the ISF rule and assess whether enforcement actions have increased compliance, and the extent to which the ISF rule has improved CBP’s ability to identify high-risk shipments.

The ISF rule requires importers and vessel carriers to submit additional information to CBP before cargo is loaded onto U.S.-bound vessels. Importers are responsible for submitting ISF-10s (required for cargo destined for the United States) and ISF-5s (required for cargo transiting but not destined for the United States) and vessel carriers are responsible for submitting vessel stow plans (depicting the position of each cargo container on a vessel) and container status messages (reporting container movements and status changes). CBP uses this additional cargo information to assess the risk of arriving cargo shipments.

According to the report, submission rates for ISF-10s increased from about 95 percent in 2012 to 99 percent in 2015 while submission rates for ISF-5s ranged from about 68 to 80 percent. GAO could not determine submission rates for vessel stow plans, but CBP officials said compliance is likely nearly 100 percent because advance targeting units responsible for identifying high-risk shipments contact carriers if they have not received stow plans. CBP has enforced ISF and stow plan submissions by using holds, which prevent cargo from leaving ports, and issuing liquidated damages claims.

However, the report finds that CBP has not determined submission rates for CSMs or enforced CSM submissions, shortcomings both attributed to the agency’s lack of access to carriers’ private data systems. In response, the report encourages CBP to take enforcement actions when targeters become aware that CSMs have not been received based on reviewing other information sources, which could provide an incentive for carriers to submit all CSMs. CBP responded that it plans to develop a CSM enforcement policy and disseminate it to ATUs.

The report also calls on CBP to assess the effects of its enforcement actions on compliance at the port level. ATUs have used varying methods to enforce the ISF rule and ports’ ISF-10 submission rates vary, the report states, so determining and implementing the most effective enforcement strategies could increase compliance at ports with relatively low submission rates. CBP said it will discuss enforcement strategies during monthly conference calls and work with ATUs overseeing ports with lower submission rates to identify potential solutions.

Finally, the report states that collecting performance information would allow CBP to better evaluate whether and how effectively the ISF programme is fulfilling its objective of improving the identification of high-risk cargo shipments. CBP said it plans to analyse ISF data from a targeting standpoint to evaluate programme performance; e.g., by determining the number of times potential terrorism matches were made against ISF data that were not identified using manifest data. CBP plans to complete these actions by 28 February 2018.

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