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Borderlands: CBP urges trade community to go paperless, adopt electronic export manifest

Through the continued development of automated processes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection foresees the day when paper export manifests will no longer be necessary. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

CBP urges trade community to adopt electronic export manifest 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) believes fully digitizing and automating export-related filings prior to outbound departure from the United States can save the trade community critical time and money.

CBP has been conducting an electronic export manifest (EEM) pilot program for exports via ocean, air and rail carriers since 2018. The pilot program excludes all paper-based manifest filing for exports. 

The EEM program will eventually replace current paper-filing processes, which can be time-consuming and labor intensive, said James Swanson, director of CBP’s cargo security and control division.

“Our goal is we want that information as early as it can come in as soon as an export is generated,” Swanson said during a July 28 roundtable meeting with the media. “Right now, we don’t get that transportation information until it’s at the port ready to be transported.”

Swanson said export data is created the minute a shipment leaves a manufacturing facility or warehouse and is headed to a port for delivery to its final destination. 

“A lot of that transportation information has already moved into the system, [and] we’d like to see it as early as that,” Swanson said. “That way I can tell an exporter, ‘That shipment is good to go. I don’t need to do anything with it. Or I might need to see a document. Can you get me that document while it’s in transit?’”

By viewing an export shipment’s data as soon as the information is generated, it can help CBP identify problems early in the supply chain so the issues can be corrected and delays avoided, Swanson said.

The filing of all electronic import manifest data became mandatory in May 2015 using CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system, in which paper documentation requirements for cross-border trade have gradually been replaced by electronic data transmissions. 

CBP’s electronic export manifest pilot program for air, ocean and rail also began in 2015. An electronic export manifest pilot program for the trucking industry is in the works, Swanson said.

“Our next big step is to work on a truck manifest,” he said “We’re hoping to develop the manifest so that it aligns with Mexico and Canada so that we can share that data.”

The pilot programs for air, ocean and rail exporters have been extended several times over the last seven years as CBP has been attempting to get more participants with limited success, officials said. 

“In 2015, we had multiple parties in the pilot and we selected the participants in each mode,” Swanson said. “Some of them began to transmit to us. Others transmitted a few things and then stopped. Economics came into play.” 

Some of the feedback CBP received from the trade community regarding switching from paper to electronic filings is the cost associated with upgrading technology and computer software. Swanson said international trade has become too big for freight forwarders and carriers to function depending on paper documents.

“We can’t operate in that paper mode. Trade is too big, too fast and there’s too much money involved,” Swanson said. “You know that the investments you have to put into technology are important because it’s what maintains your ability to operate. We found out the hard way in many cases what happens when you take the technology away and how difficult our operations are to maintain without it.” 

CBP could not provide any estimated costs for exporters or carriers “as each group has different costs related to their operational structure for the pilots,” said CBP spokesman Jeffrey Quiñones.

“The CBP Office of Regulations and Rulings is currently performing an economic analysis of Electronic Export Manifest,” Quiñones told FreightWaves.

Under the current CBP export manifest filing process for ocean and air cargo, exporters sometimes supply a paper manifest to the agency by the fourth day after sailing or flying. Quiñones said most export manifests are submitted as paper or electronic copies. 

“The filing process is still a paper process for air and vessel manifests,” Quiñones said. “Vessel carriers currently have the option to file electronic manifest copies, but that functionality is set to end by October. Not all ocean or air manifests are filed as incomplete manifests (pro forma) by the carrier and then later provided as a complete manifest up to four days later. Approvals have to be given by the port to file a pro forma manifest, and CBP receives complete manifests prior to departure as well.” 

Swanson said another factor affecting low participation in the EEM pilot programs was electronic manifests are not a CBP mandate yet. But that could change as soon as the end of the year if and when CBP issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to mandate electronic export manifest.

Once CBP issues an NPRM in the Federal Register, the electronic export manifest will begin a process of request for public comments from stakeholders, followed by reviews and tweaks to procedures. That process could take months or a few years, Swanson said.

“The NPRM is the trigger,” he said. “That’s the piece that most in the trade are looking for to show our seriousness.” 

GXO to close Fort Worth facility, lay off 116 workers

GXO Logistics Inc. plans to permanently close a Fort Worth, Texas, facility and lay off 116 workers by Sept. 30, according to a recent notice sent to state officials.

Company officials said the facility is ceasing operations for client Charter Communications.

“The entire Charter Communications operations will be closed and all employees will be impacted,” GXO said in a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission. 

GXO Logistics (NYSE: GXO) is a contract logistics provider based in Greenwich, Connecticut, operates more than 900 warehouses in 28 countries and has a global workforce of 120,000. About one-third of GXO’s facilities are in the U.S.

FedEx Ground opening distribution center near Houston

FedEx Ground is opening its 10th distribution center in the Houston area, signing a lease at the Port 10 Logistics Center in Baytown, Texas.

The 337,000-square-foot distribution rail-served center site “was chosen because of its ease of access to major highways, proximity to customers’ distribution centers and a strong local community workforce for recruiting employees,” FedEx told the Houston Chronicle.

FedEx officials did not say how many workers the facility will employ. The distribution center is scheduled to open in November.

Baytown is located about 30 miles east of Houston and 3 miles from the Houston Ship Channel. The Port 10 Logistics Center has over 3 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space and recently announced plans for a new 400-railcar storage yard project scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Hisun Motors Corp. opens $105M plant in Mexico

Powersport vehicle maker Hisun Motors Corp. recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Saltillo, Mexico.

The plant employs 1,500 workers and will produce two different models of all-terrain vehicles. Company officials expect to manufacture 5,000 units in the first year and up to 50,000 a year by 2024, according to Mexico Industry.

The company is targeting the American and Canadian markets with the facility but aim to serve others eventually, company officials said.

Hisun Motors Corp. is a China-based company with North American headquarters in McKinney, Texas.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]