As part of a multipronged effort to streamline compliance requirements, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will open two more industry-focused units aimed at centralizing the import process for trusted shippers, one for automotive and aerospace in Detroit and one for petroleum, natural gas and minerals in Houston.
Customs officials made the announcement Thursday in Long Beach, Calif., during the agency's annual Trade Symposium, which is being held on the West Coast for first time this year.
The integrated industry centers, referred to as Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE), act as virtual ports of entry for companies that demonstrate they have security and trade controls in place through membership in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism or the Importer Self-Assessment programs.
CBP last year opened a CEE in Los Angeles for the electronics industry and one for pharmaceuticals in New York after testing the concept for almost a year.
The goal is to make the entry summary process more consistent and avoid unnecessary shipment delays by shifting responsibility for document reviews and enforcement decisions from geographic ports to locations with cadres of specialists trained to understand the shipping best practices and commodity characteristics of specific industries. The CEEs also serve as single points of contact for traders and other federal agencies at the border to quickly resolve problems and provide technical guidance on regulatory requirements. Under the new approach, which is more aligned with modern business practices, CBP will deal with certified traders as part of managing an overall account rather than checking for compliance on every shipment. By better understanding unique industry supply chains the centers can determine where the real risk for safety, intellectual property or trade violations exists without having to hassle low-risk importers with routine verification measures, CBP officials say.
Revenue collection and security exams will continue to take place at the ports.
"These centers bring all of CBP's trade expertise to bear on a single industry in one strategic location," Acting Commissioner David Aguilar, said in a written statement. "They provide tailored support to increase uniformity across ports of entry, facilitate the timely resolution of trade compliance issues nationwide, and strengthen critical agency knowledge of key industry practices."
The auto/aerospace and petrochemical/mineral CEEs will likely take some time to become fully operational. The electronics and pharmaceutical CEEs initially processed entry summaries from a handful of ports and gradually increased their volume once information technology and other resources were in place.
CBP plans to create six more industry integration centers by 2015.
(For more details, see Jan. 19 AS Daily
article "CBP sees 3-year rollout for centralized import centers
") - Eric Kulisch