Test transmissions and processing of electronic sea and rail manifests for the new Automated Commercial Environment are going well, putting U.S. Customs and Border Protection on track to soon transition transportation providers to the new system, the agency announced Friday.
A sea/rail manifest pilot program involving one rail carrier and one ocean began in November. On Monday, OOCL identified itself as the first liner carrier to migrate to the new system. The rail carrier is Canadian National, according to CBP and company officials.
Three more ocean carriers and two additional railroads, as well as more ports of entry are expected to begin participating in the program in January, Cindy Allen, executive director of the ACE Business Office, recently said.
In the past couple weeks CBP has added 10 ports where officers are processing all shipments for sea/rail manifest in ACE. The original three ports that launched the program were Baltimore; Buffalo, N.Y., and Brownsville, Texas, Allen said during a presentation at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee.
CBP is building ACE as the foundation for modernizing its trade and security-related functions at the border, processing shipments, collecting trade data, and enabling information sharing with internal users as well as traders and other government agencies. A key component will allow rail and ocean carriers to transmit electronic manifest data to ACE, instead of the legacy Automated Commercial System.
Motor carriers that cross the border began filing manifests in ACE a few years ago. The ACE e-manifest, referred to as the M1 release, will enable CBP to place and remove holds on conveyances, containers or anything listed on the master bill of lading. It will also inform carriers about other government agencies that have held their containers, increase the number of secondary notify parties to 25, and compile consolidated reports about each carrier's activity, among other functions.
CBP has spent almost $3 billion and more than 10 years developing ACE, but an internal shakeup by Commissioner Alan Bersin that included the hiring of Allen from the private sector has rescued the program and prevented Congress from cutting off more funding.
Five years in the works, the ACE sea/rail manifest is now nearing reality, much to the excitement of the trade community that expects it to facilitate quicker release of their cargo.
OOCL said the ACE manifest has improved visibility on cargo status "with clearer and faster messaging on cargo disposition, which allows us to more effectively manage our shipments to and within the United States."
Stephen Ng, OOCL's director of corporate planning, added: "We see ACE as the next generation trade and customs interface platform for international trade and we look forward to even more benefits after more participating government agencies are on board to which cargo status can be managed at the container level and more substantive disposition codes being applied to further enhance the visibility of every shipment.”
During the pilot phase, CBP will operate rail and sea manifest in both ACE and ACS to allow companies ample time to implement the required programing changes prior to decommissioning them in ACE.
CBP anticipates completing its operational readiness review and formally accepting the program from IBM in early March, followed by a six month transition period before sea/rail manifest is turned off in ACS, Allen said at the COAC meeting.
The agency will announce in the Federal Register
the replacement of ACS as the only approved electronic data interchange for transmitting rail and sea manifests.
Officials say they must turn off old functionality as new ones come along because the cost of maintaining redundant systems is prohibitive.
CBP eventually plans to fold all the modal manifests into one system once the air manifest filing system is brought into ACE. - Eric Kulisch