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Sudden enforcement of federal rules

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, March 13, 2009)-A suddenly enforced U.S. airline security directive is sparking concern among businesses and individuals in the western Pacific who send freight on Continental Micronesia airlines.

The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration directed Continental effective this week that freight can no longer be accepted from individual shippers, forcing all to go through a cargo agent, consolidator or freight forwarder.

"It adds another layer of paperwork and cost that makes our products less competitive," said Majuro businessman Mike Slinger, who manages a tropical fish exporting company.

Continental officials said they are negotiating with TSA for exemptions for these small islands that have few licensed cargo agents.

"As we continue to work with TSA in hopes of an exemption or an alternate procedure, we must for the time being, even though expensive, direct our customers to (cargo agents and freight forwarders)," said Guam-based safety and security official Leo Tkel.

He called the development "an unfortunate change the TSA has imposed upon us," adding that Continental has been beseeched by customers affected by the new rule. Affected are Continental locations in Majuro, Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap and Palau, all of which are closely affiliated with the United States through a Compact of Free Association.

There are only three approved agents who can provide freight to Continental in Majuro. Slinger said he is concerned that his marine products, which he air freights to U.S. and European aquarium businesses, could be priced out of the market by TSA’s new requirement.

But it is not only businesses being impacted by the new rule that is aimed at ensuring cargo is 100 percent screened.

Human remains, small packages, tropical fish and other marine life exports are all affected by the new ruling.

Slinger said TSA’s abrupt enforcement of the rule provided no time to the airline and businesses to sort out an alternative.

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