Shippers are facing tougher customs compliance regulations for ocean and airfreight in China as Beijing tightens its ‘know-your-shipper’ rules.

The changes, which cover both imports and exports, were introduced from June 1 and cover information supplied in the China Customs advanced manifest (CCAM).

Most carriers, including Maersk, APL, ANL, Ocean Network Express, CSAV, Yang Ming Marine and COSCO Shipping, have issued advisories updating customers about the changes to minimise disruption.

China first introduced its Customs advance manifest rules from January 2009 as part of a global initiative to improve ocean and airfreight security.

It required shippers to supply a detailed cargo manifest to container lines and airlines several days before cargo was imported or exported giving information on the shipper and consignee.

The new changes now make it mandatory for shippers to supply information that was previously optional.

“Should these details not be provided, your consignment may be at risk of being held by the Chinese Authorities including relay shipments,” APL said in its customer advisory.

Paul Tsui, a Council member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong, told Forward with Toll, “The impact from China Customs Advanced Manifest rule is very small as most people have already been submitting the information.”

“However, some shippers and consignees may not have USCC or similar codes. There could be a grey area in the implementation period and the new measures may (result in) unnecessary turbulence,” he said.

Tsui, a past chairman of Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding & Logistics (HAFFA) and the Federation of Asia Pacific Air Cargo Association, added, “We are now working with carriers to see how it goes.”

The regulations also reinforce the strict timeline required for manifests to be submitted to China Customs. For ocean freight, the deadline is 24 hours before loading and unloading of cargo and for airfreight, manifests for export cargo must be submitted four hours before flight departure.

The submission deadline of manifests for air cargo imports depends on the flight time. For flights lasting less than four hours manifests must be submitted before departure; for flights lasting more than four hours manifests must be submitted four hours before aircraft arrival at its first Chinese airport.

“Complete and accurate cargo information as carried in the manifest must be submitted to China Customs electronically 24 hours prior to loading onto vessels that sail to/via/out of Chinese mainland ports. The manifest must reflect accurately and completely all goods under bills of lading,” the Maersk Line customer advisory said.

To ensure the 24-hour deadline for manifest submission to China Customs is met, carriers have imposed their own deadlines on shippers. Usually this is 48 hours prior to loading or unloading.

Willy Lin  chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, said the council sought clarification from all the liners, manufacturers and China Customs about the rule changes.

“So far, we see no problem at all. All the information requested is not much different than previously submitted,” he told Forward with Toll. “Furthermore, the cargo submission cut-off date given to factories is between one week and 10 days. Under these circumstance, there seems to be sufficient time for exporters to meet the added requirements,” said Lin, who is also managing director of Milo’s Manufacturing Co and Milo’s Knitwear (International).