U.S. Customs and Border Patrol delayed live filing of air manifests in its ACE system to make software fixes.
May 1 was the deadline for mandatory filing of electronic air import manifest to U.S. Customs and Border Protection through its new computer system – except that it wasn’t.
Last week, CBP notified the trade sector that is giving carriers and freight forwarders until June 6 to test the system and their own programs that communicate with the Automated Commercial Environment. During an April 30 webinar, officials said they were still trying to resolve more than two dozen bugs in the ACE Air Manifest System.
Nonetheless, CBP is technically holding to the May 1 deadline. The agency will continue to run two systems in parallel – the legacy Automated Commercial System and ACE for air manifests. Transportation companies will file to the old system and the agency will simply route the data about cargo shipments onboard aircraft to ACE until June 6, when the ACS system for air manifest is scheduled to be phased out.
The manifest is collected prior to aircraft landing in the United States and automatically analyzed for signs that a shipment has criminal or terrorist connections.
The CBP mandate essentially applies only to air manifests because Customs and Border Protection in 2012 turned off ACS as an approved system for transmitting advance rail and sea manifests from carriers and in-bond transactions. E-truck manifests have been required in ACE for several years.
This delay has an indirect impact on customs brokers and importers, explained Elizabeth Connell, vice president of product management at Integration Point, a global trade compliance software company.
Air manifest data is used to fill out special forms to move air freight from the airport to a foreign trade zone under bond without paying duties and companies will now have to wait to realign their processes for the new electronic form (called QP/WP) until June 7.
Also on hold is a new CBP requirement for three extra data elements from the manifest for an in-bond permit to transfer cargo within the same port limit.
Finally, a tool importers use to query CBP’s system for bill of lading information will not be available in ACE for another five weeks. Bill of lading data about each shipment is embedded in the manifest and importers can check the system for status information, such as whether an in-bond transfer has been authorized, an product has arrived at a port or an entry has been made against the transport invoice. Importers want to make sure that the full quantity within a shipment – cartons for example – are properly recorded and the bill is properly closed out because any product that CBP does not match up in its records gets sent to general order, Connell said.
Under CBP rules, importers have 15 days to take delivery of goods after arrival at a port of entry or they will be removed to a special warehouse at the importer’s expense. If the goods are not cleared within six months, they are auctioned, donated or disposed of by the government.
The pushback of the live start for the ACE Air Manifest is considered by industry as a sign of growing IT maturity within CBP, which has markedly improved deployment speed for ACE functionality since 2012 after years of mismanagement.
At the April 24 Commercial Operations Advisory Committee meeting, however, Michael Mullen, executive director of the Express Association of America, stood up and urged CBP allow adequate time for the private sector to test its systems for at least six weeks as new deadlines come up.
“And that means that the code has to be locked down at some date well before some date like May 1 or Nov. 1 so the trade can engage in very realistic testing with what is going to be the final version of the program,” he added.
Nov. 1 is the date when all filing of all types of customs entries will switch over from the Automated Commercial System to ACE and become entirely paperless.