As many of you know, U.S. Customs and Border Protection makes available to the public manifest data for import and export shipments. The manifest data includes information such as the name and address of the foreign shipper & U.S. consignee/notify party, the ports of lading and unlading, the carrier, a description of the goods, weight, etc. This data is obtained by private companies that repackage it (and often add their best guess at classification, entered value, etc.) and then sell it to the public for a fee. These fee-based services are often used by companies to learn more information about competitors’ supply chains, to identify importer of counterfeit or infringing products, etc.
You may also know that CBP allows companies to request confidential treatment for their manifest data. Under the regulations, if a company requests confidential treatment, CBP will not disclose the names and addresses of the importer/consignee, foreign shipper or notify party and any other identifying marks. While the process to obtain confidential treatment is pretty straight-forward (it involves submitting a letter to CBP HQ), companies need to be aware that (i) CBP will only grant confidential treatment to an exact name match and (ii) these requests expire after 2 years.
Given that company names are often garbled when reported on the manifest (e.g., a company such as ABC Importing, Inc. may be identified on the manifest, and thus, in CBP’s system, as ABC Importing, Inc., ABC Importing, ABC Inc., etc.), it is important that the request for confidential treatment identify the most likely variations for both the foreign shipper and the U.S. consignee/notify party. CBP will generally allow companies to submit up to 10 different name variations for the same entity.
Also, since the requests for confidential treatment automatically expire after two years, it is important that companies set a calendar reminder 60-90-days before the previous request is set to expire.
We hope that this is helpful. If you have any questions, or if you would like any assistance requesting confidential treatment for your data, please let us know.