Electronic Vessel Manifest Confidentiality: Who Can See Your Information?
With varying regulations governing the disclosure (Freedom of Information Act) or confidentiality (Department of Homeland Security) of certain records, it can sometimes be challenging to know who can have access to what information in the international world of trade. Importers and exporters, along with their brokers, forwarders and ocean carriers, must follow certain guidelines as to what information must be disclosed and what must be kept confidential in the commercial environment.
19 Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 103.31 Subpart C provides guidance on vessel manifests, including who can be privy to that information. Members of the press, including newspapers, commercial magazines, trade journals and similar publications are allowed to review the vessel manifests of imports and exports and the following data associated with them:
- Name and address of the shipper
- General nature of the cargo
- Number of cartons/packages
- Gross weight
- Carrier Name
- Port of Export
- Port of Destination
Information gathered by these sources is often sold in the marketplace in publications like Piers or Panjiva, which provide basic details to trade and transportation groups on cargo that is coming into the United States and exporting from the United States. While the public is not allowed to review these manifests, importers and exporters and their brokers, attorneys, agents can request copies of any manifests for which they have a legal interest.
19CFR103.31(d) provides specific guidance on how to keep this information confidential from those who have access to the data. Inward and Outward Manifest Confidentiality requests can be made to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, requesting all data be treated confidential from all means of review, including the press. Up until now, this request was usually in the form of a letter or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the importer, exporter or their designated agent/broker. The letter or email included:
- Name(s) of the Importer/Consignee – Every possible name combination that might appear on a bill of lading should be referenced on the confidentiality request.
- Address of the Importer/Consignee
- Optional: List of all suppliers/shippers that might appear as a shipper on a bill of lading.
On August 22, 2019, CBP announced that a new tool would be deployed in the near future that would allow the Vessel Manifest Confidentiality to be filed electronically via an online portal/tool. The new electronic process would streamline the request and what typically took 60-90 days to complete will be completed in as little as 24 hours.
Further details are available in the CBP Pub#0876-0419.
If you are interested in requesting for your manifest information to be confidential, please reach out to your Ascent partner or email email@example.com for further information.