A handful of customs brokers filed the first simplified entries on May 29 as part of a trial program to streamline document filing and give international shippers an early decision on releasing their cargo so they can make logistical arrangements prior to arrival, U.S. Customs Commissioner David Aguilar announced Monday.
The simplified entries are being processed in Chicago, Indianapolis and Atlanta, he said in a keynote address at the American Association of Exporters and Importers annual conference in Arlington, Va.
Nine customs brokers of varying sizes are participating in the pilot, which is only accepting entries for air cargo. Instead of filling out 27 data fields and waiting until manifest information from the carrier is available to include on the entry, importers through their brokers can submit the entry at any time prior to arrival in the United States and are only required to submit 12 data elements (plus three optional ones). They can also update their submission as more accurate information about the transaction comes to them.
CBP will quickly respond with a notice of "conditional release" or request additional information. That is followed by a final release message to the filer and the carrier once the manifest is filed and the carrier has submitted flight information.
The new process is designed to help importers quickly resolve any problems with missing data and gain predictability about when their shipments will be available for pick up at ports of entry, reduce the number of document filings and associated costs, and enhance safety and security by allowing CBP to analyze shipment data for risks earlier in the transportation cycle.
Under the current system for processing air cargo, CBP can make a release decision no sooner than take off from a foreign airport.
Pilot participants must belong to the voluntary Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and file the simplified entries through the Automated Commercial Environment, the new system being developed by CBP to process imports and exports for the entire government and communicate back to the trade community. The pilot is not allowing shipments that require clearance from other government agencies.
A Nike representative reported that the company had success with two shipments that were declared under the simplified procedures.
In one case, the entry was filed at 9:40 a.m. in Chicago while a shipment of backpacks from Indonesia was on the ground in Tokyo's Narita airport. Nike compliance specialists monitoring developments in Portland, Ore., got word by lunchtime that the shipment was released just after takeoff, Matt Varner, the company's director of trade operations, said during a panel discussion later that day.
Nike also seamlessly received a preliminary "admissibility" message four days before a shipment of shorts from Vietnam was scheduled to take off for the United States from Hong Kong, he said.
Nike's brokers for the pilot program are Expeditors International and UPS.
CBP eventually plans to expand simplified entry to ocean and other modes after it learns from the air cargo pilot. The simplified entry includes the same data elements now required on the Importer Security Filing for ocean containers, plus a couple of other data elements, and could act as a substitute for the ISF, eliminating the need for importers to file both an ISF and an entry.
A key component of a simplified entry process is the decoupling of the manifest information from the entry. Waiting for manifest data from the airline typically prevents importers from filing an entry before takeoff. CBP uses identifiers in each document to marry the entry and the manifest in its system and cross check for any irregularities.
Varner said his office received, via the broker, a final release message once the carrier filed the manifest listing the shipments on board the aircraft.
One of the shipments also involved an airline that is participating in the Air Cargo Advanced Screening pilot that is currently capturing shipment-related details found on the manifest ahead of normal manifest filing timelines. Earlier in the process, Nike also received notification that CBP had a corresponding airway bill from the freight forwarder that matched the manifest, he said.
"The messaging is key because we bring it into our [Enterprise Resource Planning] system to tell folks not in compliance what the status of the shipments are," Varner said. "Having that predictability, the ability to integrate the data flow from CBP back through the filer to our ERP system is hugely beneficial to us."
Aguilar reiterated that the simplified entry represents the beginning of development of the long-awaited cargo release functionality in ACE. - Eric Kulisch