Forwarders that participated in the pilot expect the agency to focus penalties on egregious violations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will begin enforcement of its new air cargo pre-arrival screening program on June 11.
CBP first launched the so-called Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) program as a pilot in late 2010 after Yemeni terrorists attempted to plant printer cartridges laden with explosives on board cargo aircraft.
The pilot started with the express carriers and rapidly grew to include all facets of the air cargo industry, including passenger and all-cargo plane operators and freight forwarders.
ACAS participants must provide CBP seven shipment data elements, including names and addresses of the shipper and consignee, total package count and weight, and cargo description, as well as the air waybill number.
The information, which does not have to be 100% clean of typos, is transmitted much earlier than other data required for regular customs clearance. The goal is to allow CBP the ability to perform risk-based targeting on the data before the cargo is loaded on board U.S.-bound aircraft.
On June 12, 2018, CBP published an interim final rule that allowed for one year of informed compliance to “provide the trade a sufficient amount of time to make any necessary business process changes in order to comply with the new requirements,” the agency said.
Brandon Fried (pictured above), executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Airforwarders Association, said his members are prepared for the transition from ACAS informed to enforced compliance.
“Forwarders have known about this requirement for a while, and the Airforwarders Association invested many of its resources in making sure that our membership was aware of the impending deadline,” he told American Shipper.
Many of the association’s members participated in the ACAS voluntary pilot program. “The pilot program yielded lots of helpful information, and since forwarders are so flexible, most are prepared to meet the requirement,” Fried said.
Most forwarders already transmit air cargo data for CBP’s Automated Manifest System (AMS) before the airplane lands in a U.S. airport, and since the ACAS data is virtually the same, both filings can be completed earlier to meet the ACAS preloading submission requirement.
“Forwarders can take comfort that the airline is still responsible for the filing and is the ultimate ACAS filer,” Fried said.
However, he said the master air waybill inclusion requirement in ACAS was “a bit of a curveball as those can change multiple times before arriving at the airport, but most forwarders have managed to meet the challenge.”
“Those forwarders without EDI (electronic data interchange) capability can often use airline portals so the carrier can retransmit the data to CBP,” he added.
CBP said air carriers and other eligible ACAS filers that have not yet started electronically transmitting required ACAS data should contact their assigned agency client representative to initiate the on-boarding process.
“As for enforcement, we were promised early by CBP that penalties will only be assessed for egregious violations and trust the agency will keep its word. The spirit of ACAS is about starting cargo security targeting as early as possible before loading the plane and not about spelling accuracy,” Fried said.