Rules and policies

We explain the most important regional shipping regulations.

Due to different regulations in individual regions and countries, shipping goods from one part of the world to another can seem complicated. Let us help by explaining the most important rules and regulations.

Customs manifests

Customs authorities require a clear overview of who is moving what, to whom and from where. They get this from the customs manifest. A customs manifest contains all the basic information about a shipment, such as the consigner and consignee, a list of contents, and the value, origin and destination. This helps authorities with security, risk analysis, risk assessment, risk management, counter terrorism and customs control.

Under the World Customs Organisation (WCO) SAFE framework, the mandatory collection of cargo information for customs via an electronic customs manifest was first implemented in the U.S. in 2005. Many countries/areas and regions, including China, the EU, Turkey and Japan, have since followed suit.

We always engage with regulatory bodies to adopt new legislations as part of our everyday business.

Below you can read about the different regional regulations and how they impact your shipping.

U.S. Customs 24-Hour Advance Vessel Manifest Rule

Carriers and NVOCCs must submit a manifest (bill of lading information) to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 24 hours before cargo is loaded onto vessels visiting the U.S.

The purpose of the rule is to enable the CBP to analyse container content information before a container is loaded and, thereby, decide on its loading/no loading status in advance.

In case of non-compliance with the rule, the most serious consequence would be the halting of loading or unloading and a consequent disruption of cargo flows and supply chains. Furthermore, CBP imposes fines or other penalties on the carriers and other parties responsible for the submission of bills of lading.

The scope of the rule

The 24-Hour Advance Vessel Manifest Rule applies to:

  • All vessels due to call at a U.S. port
  • All cargo destined for the U.S. or carried via U.S. ports to non-U.S. destinations

The rule does not apply to feeder or transhipment vessels that are not unloading at the U.S. However, the 24-Hour Advance Manifest Rule does apply when the cargo is transhipped onto a vessel that calls at a U.S. port.

How we comply

Our electronic systems allow us to submit our manifested bills of lading to CBP in a correct, quick and secure fashion.

In order to create the customs manifest, we need to get information from you in advance of the local reporting deadline. Our global teams have been specially trained to handle any questions you might have about the 24-Hour Advance Manifest Rule.

Your responsibilities as a shipper

We strongly recommend that you become acquainted with the rule and follow the overall guidelines listed below when shipping cargo to the U.S.

Please ensure the correct and timely submission of the required information (as required by U.S. Customs). Be as specific as possible with cargo descriptions on all documentation. Ensure that the correct seal numbers are reported (i.e. the last attached container seal number or numbers) prior to loading the container).

We recommend that you use our shipping instructions and transport document services. This will save time, expedite the process and improve documentation accuracy.

Information required by U.S. Customs

To fulfil our responsibilities when submitting a customs manifest to CBP, we require the following information from you, as the shipper or agent:

  • A precise description of the cargo or the 6-digit Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTS) number under which the cargo is classified, and the weight of the cargo. See the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
  • For a sealed container, we require the shipper's declared description and weight of the cargo.

Please note: Generic descriptions such as FAK (freight of all kinds), STC (said to contain), general cargo, toys, or chemicals are not acceptable.

Here are some guidelines to follow when describing your cargo:

  • The quantity of cargo should be expressed in the lowest external packaging unit. Containers and pallets are not acceptable units. For example, a container containing 10 pallets, each with 200 cartons, should be described as 2,000 cartons.
  • Include the shipper's complete name and address or future ACE identification number (unique number assigned by CBP upon the implementation of the Automated Commercial Environment) from all bills of lading.
  • Include the complete name and address of the consignee in the U.S., and the owner, owner's representative or future ACE identification number from all bills of lading.
  • Include the container numbers and seal numbers for all seals affixed to containers.
  • Include the internationally recognised hazardous material code, where applicable.

Note: For acceptable and non-acceptable cargo descriptions see U.S. Customs: Frequently Asked Questions on the 24-Hour Rule.

Special requirements to NVOCCs

The 24-Hour Advance Vessel Manifest Rule requires NVOCCs to submit house bill of lading details to U.S. Customs. An NVOCC can choose to file through its own system (automated NVOCC), the carrier's system, or an automated third party filing service.

In addition to compliance with the 24-Hour Rule, please note the following:

It is important for all NVOCCs to inform us at the time of booking, and to include in their shipping instructions, that the cargo declaration information will be transmitted by the NVOCC directly to U.S. Customs via ACE. If not, we will transmit the cargo declaration information on behalf of the NVOCC as indicated in the shipping instructions and pursuant to the terms of the contract.

The correct carrier's SCAC (Standard Carrier Alpha Code) is essential to the communication process with U.S. Customs. This code allows U.S. Customs to transmit load and no-load information to the proper parties. It is imperative that NVOCCs include this SCAC code as the "second notify" party on cargo declarations submitted to U.S. Customs for cargo booked with us.

Non-automated NVOCCs must submit their house bill of lading and shipping instructions to us simultaneously, allowing us to file both with U.S. Customs. Failure to meet the 24-Hour Rule requirements will have significant adverse consequences for NVOCCs. In addition to actions by U.S. Customs, such as the imposition of fines, our tariff states that shippers and NVOCCs will be liable for all costs, damages or other losses incurred by us as a result of non-compliance.

10+2 – Importer Security Filing (ISF)

The CBP’s 10+2 interim final rule became effective on 26 January 2009. The regulation requires importers and ocean carriers to electronically submit additional data to CBP for containers on board vessels destined to the U.S.

U.S. importers are responsible for the 10 additional sets of data elements, which are:

  • Manufacturer
  • Seller
  • Consolidator
  • Buyer and ship-to names and addresses
  •  Container stuffing location
  • Importer and consignee record numbers
  • Country of origin of goods
  • The Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule number

The Carrier must submit two additional data sets:

  • Vessel Stowage Plan (or BAPLIE)
  • Container Status Messages

Finally, carriers will need to provide five additional data elements for shipments consisting entirely of foreign cargo remaining on board (FROB), intended to be transported in-bond as an immediate exportation (IE), or for transportation and exportation (T&E). The five additional data elements are:

  • Booking party
  • Foreign port of unloading
  • Place of delivery
  • Ship-to party
  • Commodity HTSUS number

We will file this information to CBP and it will be necessary for shippers or importers to provide the Commodity HTSUS number.

As of December 2014, no ruling has been made as to filing requirements for house bill details for T&E, IE or FROB cargo. As a result, U.S. Customs is currently not enforcing that portion of the five data elements of ISF.

China Customs Advance Manifest (CCAM) Regulation

With effect from 1 January 2009, China Customs implemented a manifest regulation that requires electronic submission of complete and correct cargo manifest to China Customs 24 hours prior to loading of cargoes onto vessels out of and into mainland China ports.

The purpose was to standardise Customs administration of manifests on inbound and outbound means of transportation, facilitate and safeguard international trade, and to align with global practices.

CCAM enables China Customs to analyse container content information before a container is loaded, and in advance decide on its loading/no loading status. In case of non-compliance with the regulation, China Customs may impose fines or other penalties on the carriers and other parties responsible for submission of the cargo declaration.

The scope of the rule

The regulation is applicable to all export, import and trans-shipment cargo via any of the mainland China ports. It includes:

  • All import cargo destined for China
  • Cargo to be transhipped at a Chinese port that is heading for non-Chinese destinations
  • In-transit cargo, for example containers discharging cargo at Chinese ports that is to be delivered to destinations outside China

The rule does not apply to freight remaining on board (FROB), i.e. cargo on board a vessel that calls at a Chinese port, without being discharged.

You can read more about the rules, access customer advisories and review a list of frequently asked questions here.

Japan Advance Manifest Filing Rule (JP24)

JP24 Advance Manifest Filing Rule, officially enforced from March 2014, requires ocean carriers (both VOCCs and NVOCCs) to electronically file cargo information for cargo to be loaded onto a vessel that is destined for a Japanese port, in principle, 24 hours before the vessel’s departure from the port of loading.

The purpose of the rule is to enable Japan Customs to ensure their security level for international logistics meets international standards, and to prevent terrorism and trans-national organised crimes, by screening detailed maritime container cargo information at an early stage.

The electronic filing of the advance manifest is done through the Nippon Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System (NACCS). 

Read more about the scope of the rule and how to comply.

European Customs Advance Manifest Rule

In order for European Customs to ensure that the security risk assessment is performed prior to all import cargo arriving in the European Union (EU), all carriers, effective from 1 January 2011, are responsible for the timely electronic lodging of a relevant Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) with European Customs.

The ENS is required by European Customs at least 24 hours before cargo is loaded onto vessels bound for the EU at a non-EU port of loading. The European Customs Advance Manifest Rule applies to all 28 EU Member States. Although Norway and Switzerland are not EU member states, they have adopted the EU Customs Advance Manifest Rule. Please note that overseas areas such as the Canary Islands, Madeira, Martinique, Reunion, Guadeloupe, French Guyana and Azores are also subject to the same EU manifest rule.

In order for us to comply with customs requirements, we require you to submit an accurate shipping instruction 48 hours prior to "CY cut off" (or as stipulated by your local Safmarine office).

For more information and to get a better understanding of the European Customs Advance Manifest Rule, please contact your nearest Safmarine office. We are always happy to help.

Wildlife restrictions

Safmarine will not knowingly facilitate or tolerate the carriage of wildlife or wildlife products where trade in such wildlife or wildlife products is contrary to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES) 2, and as such illegal under international and national laws.

safmarine stamps background
My saf


Book a shipment, prepare documentation, print bills of lading, check sailing schedules, track your shipments, get invoices and more – at any time and from anywhere.