New Delhi: All steel containers arriving at an US port on or after 15 October have to be sealed with a high-security seal that meets ISO PAS 17712 standards, in line with a new security procedure imposed by the US customs and border protection (USCBP) agency.

Firstword: 26th March’2008. Nawahar Lal Port Trust Shoot JNPT. Ashesh Shah

The new rule will also apply to cargo containers transiting the US en route to a different destination.

Failure to comply with the new rule will result in a fine.

In an email answer, Neil Ashby, director of sales, Maersk Line, India and Sri Lanka, said the requirement now “puts a lot of responsibility on the shipper/forwarder to ensure the cargo and the container which are being shipped are properly secured in such a way that they cannot be tampered with while in transit, from the moment the container leaves the premises of the shipper right up to the point when it reaches the final destination".

About 4,000 forty-foot-equivalent units, or FEUs, are shipped every week from India to the US by container carriers.

An FEU is double the size of a twenty-foot equivalent unit, which is the standard size of a container and is a common measure of capacity in the business.

The cost of implementing the rule will be minimal, said Ashby, estimating it at about Rs10 per container. On an annual basis, that works out to more than Rs20 lakh, to be borne by the exporters.

Ships that have left India earlier to reach the US on or after 15 October have already started adhering to the rule, and industry executives don’t see any delays arising out of the new requirement, either.

Basic ISO/PAS 17712 standard mandates that seals must indicate their grade—“H" for high security, “S" for security and “I" for indicative—and must come from ISO-certified manufacturers. The seals must meet or exceed standards for strength and durability and be clearly marked with a unique identification number.

Carriers are obliged to transmit all seal numbers via the Vessel Automated Manifest System to USCBP at least 24 hours before cargo is laden at a foreign port.

A manifest is a list of all cargo on a vessel.