The United States and Canada on Monday began a limited demonstration program at the Blaine, Wash.-Surrey, British Columbia port of entry for pre-inspecting U.S.-bound trucks in Canada instead of on the U.S. side of the border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced.
The first phase of the pilot program is designed as a "proof of concept" to determine the viability of assigning CBP officers to Canadian border facilities to pre-inspect trucks, drivers and cargo heading to the United States on the Pacific Highway.
U.S. Customs built an extra booth and installed non-intrusive imaging and radiation detection equipment at the Canadian border checkpoint to do the pre-clearance, CBP spokesman Mike Milne said.
CBP said it will monitor wait times and take steps to mitigate traffic backups as needed.
Only motor carriers in CBP's Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program that have had their companies and drivers pre-vetted and carry cargo from shippers certified under the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism as having secure supply chain practices will be eligible to use the dedicated pre-inspection commercial primary booth located on the Canadian side of the border.
CBP officers will conduct primary inspections of FAST trucks and make a conditional release, which will eliminate the need to stop at the U.S. inspection plaza. Secondary inspections, when required, will continue at the Blaine port of entry.
The pilot will continue in Blaine for six months, operating Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phase II will test the feasibility of reducing cargo wait times, CBP said.
CBP and the Canada Border Services Agency plan to start a second pilot at the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y., by the end of the year, Thomas Winkowski, the de-facto head of CBP, told American Shipper
following a speech in Washington at the American Association of Exporters and Importers conference. That pilot, as previously reported, is expected to test southbound flows of imports from the Port of Montreal and northbound cargo from the Port of Newark in New Jersey.
The pre-inspection trial is part of bi-national effort to reduce duplication of customs processing and congestion at border plazas, and is part of a broad plan to facilitate trade between the two countries as spelled out in the December 2011 Beyond the Border Action Plan signed by President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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. - Eric Kulisch