By Sara Mayes, CEO and President
We often receive inquiries from our member companies questioning how details of their shipments are found in the public domain. Many shippers come to this realization based on unsolicited offers for services highlighting details of past international shipments.
Many shippers are unaware that detailed information of their containerized shipments is available, including importer and/or shipper names and addresses, and description and quantity of cargo, carrier information and ports of load and discharge.
Under US federal law codified in 19 CFR 103.31(a) certain information on inward and outward vessel manifests may be examined, copied and published by accredited representatives of the press, i.e., newspapers, commercial magazines, trade journals and similar publications. Shipment data from Customs ACE system is also aggregated by numerous trade data organizations who sell the data to the public for a fee.
As surprised as shippers are to find this information in the public domain, they are often equally surprised to learn there is a way to stop this from occurring. Under 19 CFR 103.31 (d), an importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of its name and address contained in inward manifests, to include identifying marks and numbers. In addition, an importer or consignee may request confidential treatment of the name and address of the shipper or shippers to such importer or consignee.
Importers and exporters may obtain confidential treatment for certain manifest information by filing a simple letter with US Customs, outlining the trade names they wish to exempt from reporting. The process requires shippers to submit this request every two years.
It a world where data transparency is growing, it may seem futile for shippers to try and protect their data from prying eyes, but with a limited amount of effort, shippers can protect their detailed information from outside parties. If you want some help preparing a request letter, please contact Gemini Shippers Group at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will walk you through the steps to complete the process.