U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized four shipments of palm oil in Baltimore since February 11 due to information indicating that the palm oil was manufactured by forced labor, a form of modern slavery. The palm oil shipments are valued at nearly $2.5 million.
CBP officers seized the latest shipment, consisting of 108 super packs of palmitic acid, on March 1 and seized three earlier shipments of a combined 270 super packs of palmitic acid on February 11. Super packs are large flexible sacks that are used to transport bulk cargo, such as sand, grain, coffee beans or powdery substances.
Palmitic acid is palm oil refined into a powder that can be easily incorporated into food, beverages, and skin and health care products. Refining oils also removes unwanted free fatty acids, gums and waxes.
All four shipments of palmitic acid were produced in Malaysia and destined to a processing facility in Delaware. The combined weight of the four shipments of palmitic acid came to 544,176 pounds and had an appraised value of about $2,466,500.
On January 28, CBP issued a Notice of Finding to the Federal Register [FRN 2022-01779] that certain palm oil and derivative products made wholly or in part with palm oil produced in Malaysia with the use of convict, or forced or indentured labor are inadmissible in violation of 19 USC 1307 and 19 CFR 12.42.
“There is no place for forced labor in today’s world, and Customs and Border Protection stands firm against foreign companies that exploit vulnerable workers,” said Marc Calixte, CBP’s Acting Area Port Director in Baltimore. “CBP will continue to ensure that goods made with forced labor do not enter our nation’s commerce and we will help to root out this inhumane practice from the U.S. supply chain.”
Effective December 30, 2020, CBP issued a Withhold Release Order that directed personnel at all U.S. ports of entry to detain palm oil and products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation Berhad and its subsidiaries, joint ventures, and affiliated entities in Malaysia. The issuance of this Withhold Release Order is based on information that reasonably indicates the presence of all 11 of the International Labour Organization’s forced labor indicators in Sime Darby Plantation’s production process.
CBP officers initially detained the first three shipments on November 30, 2021 and detained the latest shipment on December 3, 2021. CBP provides importers of detained shipments an opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor. The importer did not respond to CBP within the three-month period for taking one of these actions, and CBP seized all four shipments.
CBP receives allegations of forced labor from a variety of sources, including from the general public. Any person or organization that has reason to believe merchandise produced with the use of forced labor is being – or is likely to be – imported into the United States can report detailed allegations by contacting CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violations Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.