Canada is evaluating simpler eligibility requirements for highway carriers to participate in the FAST program to expedite the movement of cargo across the northern border for trusted shippers.
The Canada Border Services Agency last week said it has launched a six-month trial expanding the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program at the Blue Water Bridge connecting Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Mich. Previously, shippers had to belong to both the Partners in Protection and the Customs Self Assessment programs in order for their trusted trucking companies to use the FAST lane booths at border checkpoints. The pilot project only requires companies to be members of one of the two trusted shipper programs in order for their pre-approved, low-risk carriers to access the express processing lanes.
FAST is a commercial clearance program for known low-risk shipments entering from the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection also has a FAST program for shipments entering from Canada and Mexico.
Partners in Protection is Canada's version of the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a voluntary program that promises fewer cargo examinations for importers that undergo background reviews and have approved plans for their supply chain partners to follow minimum security standards. U.S. Customs and CBSA mutually recognize each other's corporate certifications to increase border efficiency.
The Customs Self Assessment is similar to the U.S. Customs Importer Self-Assessment program, which is focused on trade compliance, not security. ISA companies have proven track-records of compliance and strong internal controls, and are given permission to self-police compliance with Customs rules to avoid lengthy audits.
The pilot project aligns Canada's FAST eligibility requirements with those of the United States. U.S. and Canadian motor carriers are allowed to take advantage of the FAST lanes if they undergo a background check for C-TPAT membership, are hauling cargo for C-TPAT importers and the driver possesses a valid FAST photo-ID card. The card contains an RFID chip that uploads the driver and shipment information to a reader for officers to review prior to reaching the booth.
There are 17 ports on the northern border with FAST vehicle lanes.
The action by CBSA is the latest in a series of steps by Canada and the United States to harmonize border management and push security decisions away from the border, as called for under the Beyond the Border initiative in 2011.
In addition to mutual recognition of their trusted shipper programs, CBP and CBSA have a pilot program under way at the Port of Prince Rupert that enables Canadian officers to inspect certain high-risk shipments on behalf of CBP so that intermodal trains full of import containers do not have to be reinspected at the land border. This year, the United States also recognized Canadian air cargo screening requirements as meeting its standards for inspecting all cargo on passenger planes and decided to raise its informal entry requirement to $2,500 to match Canada. - Eric Kulisch