The commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service has challenged the port and maritime industries to make greater use of the agency's electronic documentation system.

Carol Boyd Hallett, in a speech Thursday at the American Association of Port Authorities' annual spring conference, said it is "time to do more" with the program known as the automated manifest system.She noted that 40 carriers in 10 port authorities and 12 service areas currently use the system, but its growth has leveled off.

That figure has not changed in the last year, which is a "cause of concern. There are still 114 carriers that are not participating in (the system)."

That should send a "red flag up the pole," she asserted, adding that ''we need your help in pointing local shipping communities in a direction that makes sense."

Ms. Hallett also said the Customs Service is working on new guidelines designed to provide more clarity in how the agency uses space for Customs inspections at seaports and airports.

"We can find many ways to resolve most problems," she said. The key word is "how," which she said she is encouraging her employees to use. "We are determined to make sure the Customs Service returns to a strong and successful service in the area of commercial operations."

That will be critical, she continued, because trade moving across U.S. borders is expected to double by 2000.

"I think we'll emerge as front- runners in the global competition but not until we make a mental commitment on the need for changes," she said.

U.S. government and industry must show a "readiness and willingness" to adapt. "If we don't, we will be extinct," said Ms. Hallett.