As more and more of the general cargo moved around the world tends to be containerized, the container is increasingly becoming an essential equipment in world trade. Over the past few years most Argentine ports handling general cargo have been modernized with terminals at Buenos Aires equipped to receive fully containerized vessels. In the mean time legislation is also being updated for this traffic and today Argentina is quickly adapting to modern transport needs.
Most liner vessels now participate in joint services with other partners and as vessel schedules grow tighter terminals must be able to load and discharge simultaneously a large number of containers. Direct delivery alongside the ship is rare and instead, on discharge, containers are sorted and classified for delivery at a later date. The vessel’s agent (CTA) to whom the vessel is consigned is responsible for presenting to Customs the general manifest covering the import cargo of all partners. The agent enters this information into the Customs MARIA system, to which container terminals are also linked. Once cargo has been discharged FCL containers are delivered to consignees through port terminal within five days subject to custom’s clearance, or else sent to customs controlled areas within consignees premises. LCL containers are stripped at the terminal or at a Container Freight Station outside the port area and then the goods are available to the consignee.
Nowadays, terminal or container freight station operators, to protect their own interests, require consignees to present a delivery order issued by the Ships Agent stating that the consignee has fulfilled all delivery requirements, such as redelivery of original Bill of Lading (as per Article 301, 302 of Navigation Law) and that freight and any other additional charges have been paid.
Legislation concerning containers is contained in Laws 20,094, 21,967 and 22,415 of the Customs code and operational procedure is governed by ANA regulation 1870/87, 682/94 and 4289/95. Some details of Regulation 682/94 are given below.
Exporters, importers, Customs’ Brokers and Customs Transport Agents, must be duly registered at Custom House Administration Districts.
Further to the above laws and regulations Law 24,921, of January 7th, 1998, known as the “Multimodal Law”, modifies the definition of container, which used to be treated as cargo, and now is “transport equipment”. The law also set a time limit for containers in Argentina, later increased to 480 days, without the possibility of extension by Law 25,345 of November 2000. Stiff penalties are charged for those containers remaining in the country beyond this time limit.
Customs Regulation 682/94
This regulation defines all requirements with regard to the temporary import and export of containers, together with details concerning their movements within the country. It also states that Regulation 1870/87 remains applicable insofar as the items contained therein do not contradict those of 682/94. Regulation 4289/95 gives details of the procedure to be adopted for the control of containers within the Customs computerized “María” system.
Definitions used in this text:
CTA: Customs Transport Agent
PCZ: Primary Customs Zone
CFS: Container Freight Station
CY: Container Yard
CB: Customs Broker
Following are some of the most relevant regulations governing the use of containers in Argentina:
Temporary import of containers
All containers, other than those of Argentine origin, are accepted as temporary imports and, as such, are subject to Customs control but without the need for further documentation.
The maximum time limit for such containers to remain in Argentina is 480 days, not extendable and counting from the day of their arrival. Once the time limit has expired the Customs House will charge the party responsible for the entry of the containers to the country.
Movements of containers
CTA’s are responsible for all container movements. The movement of containers is governed by the following AFIP (Internal Revenue Service) Resolutions 285/98 according to which it is compulsory to submit a detailed declaration in the case of local land transits and transits cargo to neighboring countries. Other resolutions (562, 565, 592, 621 and 661/99) which imposed further restrictions and created a lot of unnecessary paper work for shipping agents have been waived in lieu of a commitment to use electronic seals and tracking devices (DES) to trace the movement of containers and triggering an alarmif the seal is unlawfully opened.
Transference of containers
Transference of containers can be effected between CTA’s in accordance with the established norms and without Customs intervention. The party originally responsible for the return of the container is relieved of that obligation when transfers are carried out as above. Full containers discharged at a CZ to continue in transit overland to another C. Zone either by road or rail, may do so as follows:
a) By the CTA who presented the cargo manifest or by a Customs transport Agent to whom the container has been transferred, declaring the goods by MIC/DTA or on a transshipment form OM 1957, thereafter complying with Regulations 409/84, 2382/91 and 3256/93, whichever is applicable and sealing the containers at the PCZ where the goods entered the country. The CTA signing the document accepts the inherent responsibility for the goods whilst in transit as established in Art. 296 and subsequent articles of Law 22,415.
When on-carriage is by more than one means of transport the transfer operations shall be covered by the transshipment document initially presented to Customs at the CZ and details of the transfer operations must be recorded on the original transshipment document. Transshipment is effected without Customs intervention and on the sole responsibility of the CTA who must ensure that the container and its Customs seal remain intact.
b) By a CB representing an importer, duly registered with Customs as per conditions established in Regulation 200/84, if not opting to proceed as in point a).
Declaration of containers
In accordance with Resolution 4289/95 the inbound/outbound declaration of containers is done through the MANI (Import Manifest) and MANE (Export Manifest) of the MARIA system.
Responsibility of the container operator
In accordance with Article 486 - modified by Article 46 of Law 24,291 - the movement of containers within the Argentine customs territory is done under the responsibility of a CTA.
Clip-ons, accessories and container spares
Refrigeration equipment, other accessories and container spares must be declared on the ship’s cargo manifest and their temporary import / export and exit from the PCZ is subject to the conditions laid down in the Regulation.