WASHINGTON — Vessels and seaports around the globe began a fresh chapter in the antiterrorism campaign Thursday, as new, comprehensive security rules came into force.

This story first appeared in the July 6, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it “detained, denied entry or restricted the operations” of six foreign-flagged ships for noncompliance on the first day the rules took effect, sending a strong signal that it plans to strictly enforce the new regulations.

A freight vessel from Honduras was completely denied entry at the Port of Miami and apparently was sent back to its port of origin. It could not be learned what the ship was carrying, but thousands of dollars worth of apparel is imported to the U.S. from Honduras every month and the move was sure to raise concerns among importers and retailers.

The U.S. imports more than $77 billion worth of textiles and apparel each year, which represents more than 90 percent of all clothing sold at retail in the country. The vast majority of imported goods arrives by ship, so a sharp slowdown in ocean freight traffic could leave retailers looking at understocked shelves.

The Coast Guard began boarding every foreign-flagged vessel approaching U.S. ports on July 1 to ensure they are in compliance with the new maritime standards designed to thwart a terrorist attack at the ports or on the seas. The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, signed by more than 140 countries, and the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act require that vessels and port facilities implement security measures to control access, monitor activity and screen personnel, baggage, cargo and vehicles. Each ship also must have a certificate showing it is in compliance with the treaty and must keep a log of the last 10 ports it has visited.

In addition to action taken against six foreign-flagged ships, the Coast Guard restricted 42 U.S. vessels and restricted or closed 19 U.S. facilities on July 1. U.S. apparel and textile importers are keeping a close eye on the Coast Guard’s enforcement of the new rules. The agency has warned it will deny entry to noncompliant vessels on a case-by-case basis and will delay vessels coming from noncompliant ports until their security status can be verified.

The U.N.’s International Maritime Organization has warned that some foreign vessels and some ports in the developing world, which supply most apparel sold in the U.S., are not in compliance, due to a lack of technology and funds. Despite the specter of ships laden with back-to-school apparel being turned away by the Coast Guard, officials at several retail, shipper and import associations claimed they had been reassured the additional inspections and scrutiny would not cause disruptions of global commerce, at least in the short term.

— Kristi Ellis