Poor timing by India

The cargo transportation industry is struggling with security-driven requirements for advance submission of information on international shipments. Although the U.S. began this quest nearly 17 years ago with a voluntary program, the Trade Act of 2002 made the Automated Manifest System mandatory for all U.S. imports.

Customs and Border Protection is to implement the first phase of the new rules on Aug. 13. However, while the industry's attention was focused on the U.S., India slipped in with regulations requiring advance shipment information on its imports on May 1.

Many within the industry were surprised by this development, especially after so much time and money was spent to prepare for the U.S. regulations. The sudden regulatory notice given by India's government puts a gigantic wrinkle in global air transportation.

Although reports indicate that India plans to levy fines and penalties for non-compliant shipments immediately after the effective date, the action could prove counterproductive. If India strictly enforces its regulations, carriers may be forced to restrict the acceptance of cargo destined to points within the country.

What India must realize is that the U.S. is the largest source of its imports and that if push comes to shove, India's imports will be drastically reduced and shipping costs will skyrocket. This will hurt India's trade while the rest of the world prepares to meet the U.S. advance-manifest requirements.

The expression "timing is everything" seems to apply, but in this case it would appear to have a negative meaning, especially if the Indian government is steadfast in its position of mandatory compliance. Only time will tell.

Robert F. Caton


CSTA Cargo Shipping Transportation Analysts

St. James, N.Y.