(Nov. 18) WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Customs Service has passed a regulation requiring sea carriers to provide details of the contents of containers heading for the U.S. a full 24 hours before loading the cargo onto the ships.

The rule, announced Oct. 30, is part of the Container Security Initiative, a program launched in January and designed to protect the U.S. and the containerized shipping industry from terrorist threats.

“Terrorist organizations pose an immediate and substantial threat to the global trading system,” customs commissioner Robert Bonner said in a news release. “With this rule, customs can better protect the American people and the global trading system as a whole.”

Information required under the proposal includes a description of the container’s contents, date of scheduled arrival in the U.S., the foreign port of origin, the shipper’s name and address and the vessel number.

Companies failing to comply with the rule will be subject to fines. Bonner said that customs also reserves the right to prevent a company from unloading a container as punishment for noncompliance. Enforcement of the rule, however, will not begin until early 2003.

Under the Container Security Initiative, U.S. Customs is working on agreements with other nations to target and screen high-risk sea containers in foreign ports before they are shipped to the U.S.

In March, the Customs Service made the first such agreement with Canada and has since entered into bilateral agreements with the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. These agreements will allow the CSI program to be implemented in ports at Rotterdam, Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; Le Havre, France; and Brehmerhaven and Hamburg, Germany.

More recently, Singapore has said it will join the program and allow the initiative into the Port of Singapore. U.S. Customs officials will be stationed at all of these ports within the next several weeks.

On Nov. 7, the U.S. announced a similar agreement with Italy that will allow U.S. Customs officials to be stationed at that country’s La Spezia and Genoa ports.