The Better Way to Navigate Customs

eManifest systems can make cross-border logistics smoother, provided you adapt to their demands

Written by Paul Gallant

Most governments in the world are phasing out paper customs reporting in favour of electronic data provided before the goods arrive at a port of entry. Within the next few years, eManifest initiatives by the U.S. and Canadian border agencies will require international supply-chain participants, carriers, freight forwarders and customs brokers to file all customs information electronically on international imports, whether arriving by highway, rail, air or sea.

Called Advance Commercial Information (ACI) in Canada and Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) in the U.S., these eManifest initiatives are intended to speed up processing at the border, while increasing safety, security and customs compliance. The Canadian government estimates that Canadian businesses will see a net benefit of $391 million over 12 years from efficiencies and reduced delays at the border with ACI, while the US government says its ACE system is 41% faster than older methods.

The bad news is that you may need to upgrade your IT systems to comply. And penalties will be levied on businesses that fail to meet the tighter deadlines that come with the new systems.

Both Canada and the US have repeatedly pushed back deadlines on implementing their systems, though industry experts expect both ACE and ACI to be fully functioning and mandatory by 2015/2016. Here’s what to know about eManifest reporting.

  • Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have created free Web-based portals aimed at small- and medium-sized enterprises. For a cost, third party services and software offer simpler interfaces, some of which will automatically enter duplicate information in order to save time.
  • Each eManifest report is made up of transmissions by several different parties, including the importer, the carrier, the customs broker and the freight forwarder. All will have to work together much more closely. “The importer is going to have to be aware how the information gets from the shipper to the trucker, and from the trucker to the customs broker, and from the customs broker to customs,” says Ruth Snowden, executive director of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association. Service providers may charge more because of additional communication required.
  • You’re going to have to start reporting information much earlier. If customs requires an eManifest on your goods 60 minutes before the truck arrives at the border, “you can’t get the information to your customs broker 65 minutes beforehand,” says Joy Nott, president of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. For marine transport, eManifest reporting may be required a week or more before the shipment arrives at customs.
  • Because timing is crucial, your company should have someone available 24/7 to troubleshoot. “If there’s a problem at the border, the customs broker needs someone to call,” says Jennifer Fox, vice president of customs and compliance for the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
  • If you’re submitting info to your brokers by paper or fax you will have to get used to submitting electronically or face higher prices and longer turnaround times in order to re-enter the data, says Nott.

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