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Reminder: Data from ocean shipments transiting through the U.S. can be made public

October 17, 2016

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not "directly" disclose the names of importers and exporters to the public.

However, there are a number of private sector media services that are permitted by the "privacy statute," 19 CFR 103.31 (d), to collect manifest data at every port of entry. "Reporters" collect and publish names of importers and exporters from vessel manifest data unless an importer/shipper requests confidentiality.

Among the companies that provide this information service are the Journal of Commerce's PIERS database and Ealing Market Data Engineering Co.

Canadian importers and exporters are not immune as this also applies to goods that are in transit through a U.S. port, such as an ocean shipment from China to Toronto transiting through a harbour on the U.S. west coast.

Importers or exporters, including Canadian companies, can submit a request for confidential treatment in the form of a letter that can be emailed, faxed, or mailed to CBP's Privacy Branch.

The requestor must have a mailing address in the United States. The address can be that of a branch office, a sister company, or a U.S. Customs Broker.

It is important to note that the name of the company requesting privacy will be matched exactly, by a computer program, with the names appearing on bills of lading. One off character and the information becomes public. To alleviate the problem CBP accepts up to 10 variations on the name with each request.

The confidential protection is valid for 2 years, after which time a renewal is needed.

For additional information please see: How can I prevent information about my import activities from being disclosed to the public?

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