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 panjiva.com, datamyne.com and importgenius.com (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!