The fear among many brokers that moving to a paperless environment in ACE would eliminate the need for an intermediary in the customs process has proven unfounded, Cindy Allen, vice president of U.S. brokerage for DHL Global Forwarding, said.
When work began on ACE 15 years ago it was a valid concern that more automation could take work away from brokers because Customs didn’t treat the brokerage industry as a partner the way it does today, she said. Now, as Customs has undergone its own transformation in recent years and importers supply chains have become more complex, there is a better understanding of the important role brokers play in getting information across the entire transportation spectrum to Customs.
“The dynamic of animosity [between brokers and importers and Customs] has really dissipated over the last five to seven years. I think we are seen as allies and advocates for one another,” Allen said.
In fact, according to a blog on Kewill’s website, there will be greater business opportunity for brokers because of ACE. The software provider said ACE enables brokers to transmit detailed electronic information that previously wouldn’t have been part of their job description.
Benefits will best be achieved, industry officials say, when other government agencies fully adopt risk-management principles so that they focus on issues of concern rather than examining all shipments.
Here are some of the new features in ACE that will make life easier for brokers and reduce transaction costs:
- Simplified Entry – CBP now actually calls this feature Cargo Release. Under simplified entry, filers only submit prior to arrival about half the information required on the standard customs entry, along with some data from the Importer Security Filing. The process was streamlined by stripping out of the entry filing any data on the manifest or bill of lading received from the carrier or freight forwarder. It gives CBP the ability to review shipment information much earlier in the supply chain so document issues can be resolved prior to departure or in transit, minimizing the amount of goods held at arrival. CBP will issue a quick “conditional release” or request further documentation, if necessary. Cargo Release is especially beneficial for air cargo, because it gives brokers flexibility and visibility into split shipments (cargo on one bill of lading that arrives at port in different conveyances) for the first time.
- ITDS – The common electronic portal is expected to save all parties time and money. Gone will be the days of importers putting a document in an overnight envelope and sending it to the broker, who prints out other related documents and hires a courier to run the package over to the local Customs house. Also eliminated will be the need to repeatedly check with other government agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service to find out if a shipment has cleared and wait for a stamped paper confirmation so the broker can tell the importer to pick up the goods at the port.
- Document Imaging System – If CBP needs an original piece of paper, such as an invoice or product label, brokers can scan an image, upload it and send it along with the entry. Having everything in an electronic package makes it easier for CBP to match the document with the electronic transmission and data related to other government agencies.
- Periodic Monthly Statement – In effect for several years, this cash-flow feature allows brokers and importers to pay duties on the 15th business day of each month following entry rather than within 10 business days of filing an entry.
- Customs Census Warnings - Flag valuations and other criteria that fall outside expected tariff parameters can be over-ridden. Brokers can certify, via electronic message, that their information is valid and state the reasons why the shipment doesn’t conform to the norms. They can also anticipate a Census Bureau warning and notify Customs ahead of time.
- Electronic Forms -- Receive electronic copies of forms CBP wants the importer to fill out.
- Post-Summary Correction – An automated correction of the entry filed through ACE, which replaces the Post-Entry Amendment (PEA) process. Import specialists must review each PEA filed and determine whether to forward it to the entry team to enter into the system manually. Sometimes they fall through the cracks and aren’t acted upon. Under the new PSC process, CBP’s automated targeting system looks at the new entry, runs it through the same checks and refers routine changes for automated corrections. Corrections that require more analysis are routed to import specialists. And, if Customs doesn’t act on a PSC, then it is approved versus the other way around.
- Periodic Consolidated Correction – The electronics industry Center for Excellence and Expertise is testing a program called Periodic Consolidated Correction that allows trusted shippers to handle certain corrections en masse in a single transaction as opposed to filing an individual PSC for each minor entry error.
- Upload documents to ACE Portal – In addition to using the document imaging system, brokers can upload documents to the portal, although the process is more cumbersome, according to users. Licensed brokers can also file their employee lists and points of contacts, including in spreadsheet format, whenever there are changes to the workforce.
- Reports – The ACE Portal has a lot of capabilities for brokers to run reports for their customers and provide them with additional information that they couldn’t in the past. Brokers who use ACE say it can be a tool that allows brokers to provide additional, value-added services that analyze the importers’ entry and duty patterns.
This article was published in the February 2015 issue of American Shipper.