U.S. Customs and Border Protection aims to remove the remaining paper from the export manifest process and make more efficient use of this data to target threats in the outbound supply chain.
For the past year, the agency has conducted Electronic Export Manifest (EEM) pilots with ocean, rail and air carriers, which require these operators to supply CBP with information about exports prior to loading for departure from the U.S.
The agency said the benefits realized from these pilots include:
• Enhancing CBP’s ability to perform more thorough, risk-based advance screening before cargo is loaded on board the carrier.
• Curtailing traditional paperwork related to outbound cargo screening.
EEM pilots require participating freight forwarders, which have traditionally filed their shippers’ export information in the Automated Export System (AES), to supply house bill- and air waybill-level details directly to CBP and then inform the carriers that they have completed the filing. The carriers submit their own master manifests electronically to CBP.
The identifying elements for the electronic export manifest, which are contained in house bills and waybills, include total quantity and weight, cargo description, shipper name and address, consignee name and address, and departure schedule and port. In addition, the providing house and air waybill numbers are mandatory in EEM.
“For the carrier to be assured that all cargo has been reviewed by the EEM, house bills must be linked to their corresponding master bills,” CBP said.
The agency said EEM hold messages for house-level bills will be “copied to the carrier” once CBP receives the master bill. “If there are any changes to the status of the bills, updates will be sent to both the consolidator and carrier. These messages will be sent asynchronously,” the agency said.
Under the current CBP export manifest filing process for ocean and air cargo, a paper manifest is supplied to CBP by the fourth day after sailing or flight. This paper-based process is cumbersome for both the agency and industry. CBP also reviews AES “scheduled” data that is filed by either the shipper or forwarder for possible risk and security concerns.
“Today if CBP places a hold on an export, no system messages are generated,” said Michael Ford, vice president of government and industry affairs at Philadelphia-based forwarder BDP International, which has participated in the EEM pilot for air freight during the past year. “CBP notifies the carrier and then the carrier will notify the forwarder, which is cumbersome. With the EEM in place, all parties will receive an electronic message of holds and, therefore, make quicker decisions to handle the situation.”
Another benefit to EEM, Ford said, is that the filing of the manifest by the carrier will give CBP final confirmation of ports of export.
Brandon Fried, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Airforwarders Association, said there will be a procedural learning curve for forwarders when CBP shifts EEM from the pilot phase to mandatory, since this part of the industry currently files export details solely in AES.
“There may be a security targeting benefit of analyzing shipment data earlier in the process. However, forwarders should be watching this process very carefully since it could result in additional work and costs,” Fried said.
During the spring, CBP formed the Export Modernization Working Group within the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC), the agency’s primary trade advisory group. One of the working group’s goals is help the agency create the operational requirements for electronic export manifests and assist with moving the current EEM pilots into full operation.
Other initiatives underway within the Export Modernization Working Group include assisting CBP with developing a “21st Century Customs Framework” strategy to enhance enforcement and facilitation of exports, work with the agency to update tools and operations practices related to AES and collaborate with other COAC working groups and subcommittees to identify export equities and provide feedback and content including e-commerce and regulatory reform.