International shippers run out of time for ITDS input
Industry officials involved in developing the U.S. government's International Trade Data System are warning that the import/export community's window for helping shape how the single portal for filing trade data to multiple agencies will be configured is rapidly closing.
ITDS is viewed by many international traders as the antidote to redundant filing of commercial trade information collected by various federal agencies. The system is expected to streamline how government agencies gather the information they need by automatically distributing it in a desired format that eliminates information-sharing disputes, while reducing the data entry burden for the private sector. ITDS is being developed in conjunction with Customs and Border Protection's computer modernization program, known as the Automated Commercial Environment.
The Trade Support Network (TSN), a group of trade industry representatives tasked with providing business input into the design of ACE, has set an end-of-the-month deadline for its ITDS committee to prepare a set of requirements industry users would like to see the system address for the initial 23 agency participants, but so far has received little feedback from importers, brokers and others sectors involved in international trade.
TSN is trying to get the word out through trade associations that it is critical for the ITDS committee to put forth trade user requirements that can be balanced against government user requirements in creating the system, said Sandra Scott, director of international relations at trucking company Yellow Roadway Corp., and co-chairman of the ITDS committee. ITDS will be tailored to meet the data needs of government agencies and not those of business unless industry submits its own blueprint for the system, she explained.
The inertia may be partly due to the misperception among some international traders that agencies are going to use ITDS as an opportunity to go on a fishing expedition for more commercial information, Scott said. She pointed out that government entities can only collect information they are legally allowed to get to fulfill their regulatory mission.
The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, for example, broadcast an e-mail to its members to submit suggestions but the response was 'underwhelming,' said Kenneth Bargteil, Baltimore-based vice president for logistics provider Kuehne + Nagel and head of the association's customs committee.
The NCBFAA made another attempt to identify business needs by distributing a form at its Government Affairs Conference in Washington Monday asking members to evaluate the importance of ITDS in helping brokers deal with particular agencies in the course of day-to-day operations, including cost savings from a reduction in duplicative filings and other benefits in improved business processes. Conversely, the questionnaire asks members to describe how they would be affected if particular agencies did not participate in ITDS.
The Fish and Wildlife Service provides a concrete example of how consolidating reporting systems could benefit importers. At one point, brokers could file entries for fish, wildlife and certain animal products through the Automated Broker Interface, a Customs system, to Fish and Wildlife in much the same way prior notice of food imports is filed through the system to the Food and Drug Administration. But Fish and Wildlife withdrew from ABI and set up its own Web-based filing system to clear shipments, doubling the entry filing workload for brokers.
Nine agencies with critical roles in international trade — the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Census Bureau, International Trade Commission, CBP, FDA, Maritime Administration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers — have committed to participate in ITDS, and efforts are underway to bring another 14 agencies on board in time to take advantage of the multiple cargo processing functions available under a future ACE Release 5.
The ITDS committee is seeking importer, carrier and transportation intermediary input on ways to improve current business practices, in addition to data elements and other technical needs, so companies only have to enter the right information one time.
'You don't want to just automate a paper process, automate a form,' Scott said.
Companies and organizations should submit their ITDS wish list to Scott at Sandra.Scott@yellowroadway.com, or Debbie Benish at firstname.lastname@example.org.