The Air Cargo Advanced Screening rulemaking is making its way through the interagency process, but will be grounded until the Trump administration reviews it.
CBP Deputy Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has finished drafting a rule mandating air transport and logistics providers electronically submit pre-departure shipment information for automated risk profiling that will enable any necessary inspections to be ordered at the point of origin before liftoff, Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last week.
The agency, with the full help of industry, has been running a demonstration program for five years designed to provide immediate security while serving as a testbed for technical and data requirements, as well as operational protocols, that balance security needs without burdening airlines, express carriers and freight forwarders.
In a speech to hundreds of logistics and compliance professionals at the agency’s annual Trade Symposium outside Washington, McAleenan said the Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) rule is now being circulated to other relevant agencies for comment and approval.
“This kind of advance information allows CBP to assess risk and make better decisions regarding the movement of goods without slowing down air cargo,” he said. “As e-commerce grows, we will likewise grow from this framework to better operate, adapt, and address the new challenges and complexities posed by the changing landscape.”
Afterwards, he told American Shipper that there is not enough time in the current administration to publish a final notice of proposed rulemaking and that its fate ultimately rests with the incoming Trump administration.
President-elect Donald Trump pledged during his campaign to reduce regulations, which he claimed are often a drag on business and waste of taxpayer money. Trump recently said he will order the executive branch to rescind two regulations for every one regulation it issues and his campaign website said there will be a temporary moratorium on new regulations, with the exception of those that are not compelled by Congress or for national security and safety.
ACAS was launched with the help of express carriers in early 2011 after a package bomb originating in Yemen was discovered on a cargo plane. Under the demonstration, transportation providers voluntarily pre-file seven data elements about their consignments as early as possible prior to departure so CBP can carry out joint risk targeting with the Transportation Security Administration. Millions of shipments have been scrutinized since the pilot began.
Normally, shipment data is included in the automated manifest filed by the carrier with information about the aircraft and flight. But the manifest is not filed until after departure in most cases, preventing security officials from detecting potential devices smuggled aboard to destroy a plane in mid-air. ACAS is designed to split out the consignment information, which is usually available much sooner, so it can undergo risk profiling.
The pilot program has lasted for an unusually long period because it has been so successful as a voluntary screening tool, especially with the full participation of express carriers, FedEx, DHL and UPS, but also because there are so many challenges to iron out in terms of IT connectivity, different security approaches in other nations, and different capabilities of companies depending on their size or sector.
ACAS has widespread industry support, largely because it was designed to work within the existing operating environment and with different business models. Participants can submit data to CBP in any format that suits them and the rules are expected to be separately tailored for express carriers, all-cargo carriers, passenger airlines and forwarders.
Trade specialists also say that by providing more reliable data earlier in the process, and then being able to update it as better information becomes available, they can reduce the number of inspections and improve customs clearance times upon arrival. Forwarders that directly file information may be able to reduce airline fees for electronic document filing and gain greater insight about the status of their cargo. The ability to update manifests with fresh information also helps reduce fines faced by carriers for inaccurate or incomplete manifest information.
CBP officials say they want to tailor the new rules to the differing business models of express carriers, freighter operators and logistics companies.
ACAS, however, is operating in an environment under which TSA has authority for the security of aircraft and requires inspection of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft flying in and out of U.S. airports. TSA’s inspection regime is frequently at odds with CBP’s risk-based targeting approach.