Building on the success of an ocean-import security pilot designed to increase trade efficiency, the United States and Canada on Thursday reached an agreement in principle to move ahead with a trial program for pre-inspecting U.S.-bound trucks in Canada instead of at the border.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Canada's Ministry of Public Safety are teaming up on cargo security and host of other border management projects as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan signed by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2011 to develop a common strategy for dealing with people and goods arriving at their external borders while expediting legitimate trade across their common border. One of the key tenants of Beyond the Border is to reduce duplication of customs processing. Pre-clearing cargo inside Canada is expected to alleviate congestion at border plazas.
U.S. and Canadian officials said they will now work with industry stakeholders to finalize details of the truck-security pilot program, under which Canada Customs will conduct primary inspections of U.S.-bound trucks at designated locations.
The first test of the concept will begin for trucks utilizing the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, British Columbia, and Blaine, Wash. Phase II will test how pre-inspection could enhance truck flows at the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y., according to the Ministry of Public Safety.
The truck-security pilots are the next evolution of an Integrated Cargo Security Strategy intended to pre-screen shipment data to address risks in the supply chain as far ahead of arrival as possible.
Last October, a pilot project was launched at the Port of Prince Rupert for a limited amount of cargo destined to the United States by rail that enables Canada Customs to inspect containers identified by U.S. Customs as posing a potential threat so that CBP doesn't have to re-inspect the containers when the train crosses the land border. CBP specialists run advance shipping data from ocean carriers and importers, as well as other knowledge about a company's supply chain, through analytic software and ask their Canadian counterparts to inspect any suspicious boxes with non-intrusive inspection equipment. The images are uploaded to a shared system where CBP personnel can verify whether there are any anomalies relative to the manifest information. Once given the all-clear, the containers are placed on dedicated trains to Chicago, crossing the border at International Falls, Minn. Clearance now takes about 30 minutes instead of the normal two hours. The pilot is expected to last one year, followed by a six-month evaluation period.
DHS and the Ministry of Public Safety released few details about the truck-security pilot, but it is expected to follow the general pattern of the ocean-rail intermodal pilot.
CBP and Canada Border Services Agency officials said late last year that they were developing a truck pilot for import cargo headed from the Port of Montreal to the United States. Tests of how to exchange data have been ongoing for several months. The Peace Bridge would be a suitable crossing point for such traffic. Also planned for this year was a test of northbound cargo from the Port of Newark, N.J. to Canada, they said.
Protocols include testing electronic seals and other devices that can detect whether a conveyance has been tampered with during transit. - Eric Kulisch