U.S. Customs and Border Protection is being urged to take specific actions to ensure that its forced labor enforcement efforts don’t result in supply chain disruptions.

In a recent letter, Federal Maritime Commission Commissioner Carl Bentzel commended CBP for its work to enforce laws prohibiting imports of goods made with forced labor, including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. However, he added that legitimate delays in ensuring compliance with the UFLPA might create cargo back-ups at U.S. marine terminals, leading to operational challenges and potentially congestion at a time when “the supply chain is only now beginning to recover from two years of pandemic-related disruption.”

Bentzel therefore suggested several actions “to help ensure the continued efficient and fluid movement of containerized cargo,” which in turn would help reduce administrative costs to CBP and detention costs to importers.

First, CBP should considering implementing uniform procedures for securing and storing products detained under the UFLPA. Bentzel noted that some CBP field offices permit containers to be moved to a bonded warehouse and devanned, others require the containers to remain at the port, and still others instruct importers to move the containers to a centralized examination station where they must remain intact, and that this lack of consistency is causing delays in the supply chain.

Second, CBP should relocate detained products to either bonded warehouses or CES facilities where products can be stored in climate-controlled environments with proper safety, security, and emergency response measures in place. CBP should also communicate expeditiously with the owners of the detained product to understand the commodity’s storage requirements.  

Third, CBP should distribute guidance to port authorities, relevant transportation and security agencies, and importers on how future UFLPA-detained shipments will be handled.

The FMC letter represents the second time this month CBP has come under pressure to revise its forced labor enforcement efforts.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg has a robust program to assist companies on forced labor issues. ST&R also maintains a frequently updated web page offering a broad range of information on forced labor-related efforts in the U.S. and around the world. For more information, please contact ST&R at

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