U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued guidance on diverting cargo destined to ports in Puerto Rico or along the U.S. East Coast that may be closed due to a hurricane currently projected to affect the area. Major ports most likely to be impacted include San Juan, Miami, Savannah, and Charleston, though CBP notes that ports in the mid-Atlantic region are also preparing for possible severe conditions. CBP states that the diversion of cargo to open ports was a key factor in allowing trade to continue despite the closures of Texas and Louisiana seaports in the wake of a recent hurricane in that area.

Entry/Entry Summary. CBP states that if both the entry and entry summary, or a certified summary, had already been filed at the original port at the time of the diversion, nothing needs to be done. If the entry had already been filed at the original port but the summary had not, CBP recommends filing the summary at the same port as the entry. If neither the entry nor the summary had been filed at the original port, both will be filed at the new (diverted) port.

If the cargo is not diverted to a domestic port but is instead offloaded at ports in Mexico or Canada for routing into the U.S. via rail or truck, manifests must be provided by border carriers in the appropriate systems. In addition, original entries destined for original U.S. ports will need to canceled and refiled for the new land border port or an in-bond move will need to be requested to move the cargo to the port of entry. 

Errors and Penalties. For a weekly estimated entry that is filed after the fact due to system downtime caused by this season’s hurricanes and receives an error message about the elected entry date being greater than seven days from the filing date, CBP states that it may be best to adjust the elected date to match the current filing date and notify the port about the change as required. Trade partners and CBP should make note in their records that this occurred to avoid post-audit problems. 

CBP has advised officers to exercise due diligence when they are issuing liquidated damage claims for late entry summary filing during these events. In addition, filers should be notifying CBP of any issues to avoid additional work and expense. 

FDA Prior Notice. The Food and Drug Administration will be extending the expiration dates for standalone prior notice filings via either PNSI or ACE standalone transmissions for shipments going to ports that are or were subject to closure due to hurricanes Harvey or Irma. If cargo is diverted to another U.S. port of unlading there is no need for a new prior notice, but if the cargo is diverted to a foreign country for transit to the U.S. this is considered a new shipment that requires a new prior notice. 

Other. CBP also offers the following additional guidance.

- When diverting to another port, as well as for ships that have already diverted, the new port should be sent to OFO-MANIFEST@CBP.DHS.GOV.

- To ensure smooth processing of bills of lading and associated status notifications in the new port of unlading, carriers should amend the manifest to reflect the new port of unlading.

- Ports should not penalize carriers for Trade Act violations caused by cargo diversion. 

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