Get your export education
The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America has updated its export professionals education program ' good timing for an increasingly important, yet often understated, aspect of the freight shipping industry.
Enhancing export management credentials, whether involved in freight forwarding or non-vessel-operating common carrier operations, is important, especially in today's U.S. regulatory environment, which is increasingly focused on export compliance. Stiff penalties ' not to mention negative publicity ' associated with export control violations should be enough for any company to ensure it has competent and knowledgeable export managers on staff.
The NCBFAA began to revamp its decade-old export education format, formerly known as the Certified Ocean Forwarder (COF) program, about three years ago with the help of GISnet. The COF program started out as a promising way for forwarding executives to gain professional accreditation. However, the courses proved too rigorous for the average working executive to dedicate the necessary time and effort. Only 48 individuals obtained the COF status since the program's inception.
The NCBFAA believes its new Certified Export Specialist (CES) program will attract hundreds of perspective industry candidates via its online accessibility, scope of export-related coverage and continuing education requirements.
The CES program is largely modeled after the NCBFAA's highly successful Certified Customs Specialist (CCS) program. Now in its sixth year, CCS includes more than 1,400 certified individuals, including importers and former Customs and Border Protection personnel.
That doesn't mean the CCS or CES program is a breeze to pass. 'You really have to have a good grasp of the processes of export shipping. CES a comprehensive program,' said Cindy Allen, the NCBFAA's Educational Institute director.
The CES program runs the gamut of export industry activities, including export controls and licenses, Export Administration Regulations, ECCN classification, destination country controls, antiboycott regulations, Federal Maritime Commission rules, State Department's International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Drug Enforcement Agency, Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Statistics Regulations, and Office of Assets Control rules.
CES also covers export business operations and commercial requirements, such as recordkeeping, security, export quotations, payment terms, documentation, letters of credit, bookings, air freight and NVO shipments, and cargo insurance.
CES pre-registration requirements include:
' One-year minimum experience with an ocean transportation intermediary (forwarder or NVO) or an exporter.
' Application form containing company name, contact name, and e-mail/telephone number for verification along with dates of employment.
While the CES program is taught online, the 100-question multiple-choice exam will be administered by the NCBFAA on a quarterly basis by regional broker and forwarder associations at designated sites, Allen said.
Rolling enrollment in the CES program will start in January. 'We're still getting the course on line,' Allen said.
In the next several months, the NCBFAA is focused on offering long-time industry veterans the opportunity to grandfather into the CES program. COF certification holders, who are still active in the business, were automatically given their CES designation. The NCBFAA held a test of the certification exam at its recent annual meeting in San Diego. Eleven executives, each with more than 20 years of experience, took the exam and each passed, Allen said.
On Aug. 24, the Los Angeles Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association will offer a CES grandfathering test. The NCBFAA will also hold a four-hour exam prep session on Sept. 12 in Washington, before administering the CES grandfather exam at 1 p.m. However, those confident enough to pass the preparation step are welcomed to just take the exam.
To maintain certification, CES holders must complete 20 educational unit points per year. This can be done a variety of ways, including taking export-related NCBFAA-endorsed webinars. The association plans to offer these webinars, good for about 1.5 unit points each, on the first Thursday of each month, starting in July. Points may also be earned by attending NCBFAA conferences and board meetings.
Also under consideration for earning CES annual points, Allen said, are non-NCBFAA functions, including the Bureau of Industry and Security's annual Outlook conferences in Washington and various outreach programs offered regionally by federal agencies, such as BIS, Census and the FMC, and private sector entity programs provided by consultants and law firms. The NCBFAA will even consider providing CES points for taking association-approved university export courses.
Allen said an important aspect of the CES program is the overwhelming support it has received from BIS, CBP and the FMC. 'We've been very interactive with those agencies,' she said. ' Chris Gillis
Brokers on U.S. food safety revamp
When the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America discovered in early June that proposed provisions in the 2009 Food Safety Enhancement Act in the House would put brokers in the same pot as importers, the membership reacted.
More than 500 letters were sent to members of Congress by the association's members, said NCBFAA President Mary Jo Muoio in an interview in late June.
The NCBFAA is not opposed to efforts to improve the nation's food safety or enhancing the FDA's enforcement capabilities. However, brokers are concerned about being treated like actual food importers.
Muoio noted brokers must rely on commercial documents and other information provided to them by the importers. She warned the food safety legislation 'holds the customs broker strictly liable for the importer-supplied information ' with truly debilitating fines and consequences if the information turns out to be inaccurate in any respect.' Proposed penalties range up to $500,000 per violation.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's draft bill in early June would have also required brokers, along with importers, to pay $1,000 fees per facility to comply with mandatory registration procedures. The fee has since been reduced to $500 by the House for importers, but the rest of the regulations regarding broker activities remained largely in place in the pending bill by the end of June.
For now, the NCBFAA says brokers should remain engaged in the food safety legislative activities to avoid being handed a raw deal. ' Chris Gillis