Firms shipping exports to the United States faced fresh government demands for information about their cargo, as tougher new U.S. security rules took effect on Jan. 27.
Exporters to the U.S. will now have to tell Washington who sold the goods, who bought them and a host of other information 24 hours before the cargo is loaded on a U.S.-bound vessel, or face fines running to thousands of dollars and possible seizure of the goods.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the move was part of efforts to protect the country against terrorism, in a sector that is often described by experts as the soft underbelly of U.S. security.
"Collecting detailed information about cargo shipped to the United States before it arrives will enhance the effectiveness of our screening operations at sea ports around the nation," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The rules have already been in place for a year, but will only be policed from Jan. 27.
Firms face $5,000 fines for each failure to supply accurate information to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and seizure of the goods if they are then unloaded.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010