Fried said the association has supported regulatory measures to enhance air cargo security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and generally backs the purpose of ACAS.
“Unfortunately, relying on the carrier at the airport to complete the filing may reduce the ACAS value proposition of providing advanced data for targeting purposes as early in the process as possible,” Fried said. “Hopefully, CBP can devise other pathways for smaller forwarders to easily submit their data earlier to meet the requirement’s original intent.”
Philadelphia-based BDP International, one of the program’s earliest forwarder participants which prepares and files its own ACAS filings to CBP, often runs into problems convincing airlines not to file on its behalf and then billing it for the service.
“The forwarder is the best source of the data, a comment that CBP has already stated,” said Michael Ford, BDP’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs. “What happens if the forwarder’s data is correct and the airline incorrectly files the wrong data on the exact shipment? Who does CBP believe? This causes double work and does not help the forwarder in any way.”
ACAS was developed jointly by CBP and the Transportation Security Administration as a pilot program in late 2010 after terrorists in Yemen attempted to plant printer cartridges laden with explosives on board cargo aircraft.
According to figures obtained from CBP by the Airforwarders Association in advance of its Air Cargo 2019 Conference in Las Vegas, taking place Sunday through Tuesday, there are nine operational forwarders in ACAS and another 24 that are either in the discussion or testing phases with the agency. Participation by the airlines in the program is far greater.
ACAS participants must provide CBP seven shipment data elements, including names and addresses of the shipper and consignee, total package count and weight, and cargo description, as well as the air waybill number. The information, which does not have to be 100 percent clean of typos, is transmitted much earlier than other data required for regular customs clearance. ACAS data should be transmitted prior to consolidation and loading the cargo on an aircraft.
The goal of ACAS is to allow CBP to perform “risk-based” targeting on the data well before the cargo is placed on board a U.S.-bound aircraft.
Asset-based express carriers and large forwarders with their own global networks have generally had an easier time implementing ACAS for their inbound air cargo operations.
• Avoiding reduced cut-off times that may result from airlines requesting earlier data submission from forwarders that are not ACAS filers;
• Facilitating forwarder business operations by increasing consolidation lead times through improved visibility into which shipments require enhanced screening;
• And increasing security by leveraging Department of Homeland Security threat data and other information to use a risk-based approach through targeted screening.
If a shipment requires additional screening, CBP said the forwarder will receive an email or phone call “as soon as possible” to pull and screen the shipment under its National Cargo Screening Program or through authorized representative of the airline.
The agency said it’s using a “common sense approach” to enforcement and will not generally issue liquidated damages claims for the first 12 months after the rule’s publication.