American Shipper

ACE rollout causing headaches for shippers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has resolved technical problems that caused delays processing border shipments after all importers were told to switch to the new electronic import/export filing system.

   U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) rollout of its new Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) for filing customs forms is causing headaches for some cross-border shippers.
   The transition to mandatory filing of import entry summaries through the new computerized system was slowed for some filers in recent days as the agency encountered technical glitches, but the impact on shipments appears to be minimal, according to industry sources.
    CBP staggered the implementation deadline in recent months after initialing setting last November as the date when all entries and entry summaries were to be filed in the ACE system. The phased approach was designed to give importers, customs brokers and software providers more time to integrate data requirements in their internal systems. It also was a realization that other government agencies were not ready to plug into the new electronic platform and create a single-government data exchange for import/export data known as the International Trade Data System, which is expected to streamline the border clearance process.
   March 31 was the deadline for filing entries and entry summaries, the documents on which duty calculations are based, in ACE. The March 31 deadline also covers entries and corresponding entry summaries that must be cleared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. CBP plans to turn off the old system for processing customs forms soon.
   In recent days, however, CBP has experienced several interruptions in processing entries in ACE, according to the agency and users.
   CBP’s message system Monday afternoon said that it was continuing to process through a backlog of filings and that it expected to complete them in a few hours.
   “CBP regrets that these system slowdowns caused issues for some ACE users. These issues have been resolved,” CBP said in a statement e-mailed to American Shipper. “CBP technical teams operating 24/7 have increased monitoring of ACE system performance to address any additional need for faster response times while maintaining the security and integrity of the system.
   “Last week ACE reached two daily processing highs, with 64 percent of cargo release/entries and 89 percent of entry summaries being filed in ACE which resulted in some processing slowdowns that caused users to experience issues with filings in ACE and ACE/AESDirect,” the agency added.
   Industry sources familiar with ACE said they assumed some importers experienced modest delays waiting to get shipments cleared for pick up, but that any impact on overall trade flows was likely modest.
   One outside expert said the processing delays were the result of an “application issue” within the ACE program. Another customs broker said the delays are more visible seaports and airports as motor carriers have learned not to approach the land border with Canada or Mexico until they see in the system that CBP has officially released a shipment.
   CBP last week set up a “war room” to help importers and customs brokers resolve issues related to the March 31 ACE filing deadline. The agency has extra personnel ready to assist during the transition through April 8.