At its finest, Scampi was never so delectable.
The computer chefs at Seattle's seaport say that a few bytes of their latest project should make their widely used Seattle Cargo Automated Marine
Procedure Interface (Scampi) look like a green shrimp.Scampi is the electronic system the Seattle port uses to convert shipping documents from small- and medium-sized shipping lines into standard electronic form so they could be examined by the U.S. Customs Service.
But the new system does more.
We knew two or three years ago when the Customs Service first started talking about automating ship manifests that it was going to be a long time before it happened, so we developed Scampi, said Ed McKinnon, a Seattle port marketing executive. This helped Customs with selectivity and resulted in faster clearance.
With the port paying for the computers and clerks, an electronic version of the manifest goes into a port computer that can be accessed by Customs Service inspectors three to five days before the ship carrying that cargo ever steamed into Elliott Bay. Inspectors decide in advance which cargo should be stopped and checked.
Separately, the Customs Service was developing its own computerized system for accepting cargo manifests in electronic form. Major shipping lines helped shape the new system. Carriers such as American President Lines, Sea-Land Service and Maersk soon began moving their documents directly to the Customs Service.
Smaller lines calling in Seattle could have their documents examined in advance using Scampi, but recipients of the cargo at cities farther inland could not access Scampi to learn the status of their goods.
Now that's changing.
Under a program started last week, the same Seattle port clerks who enter information into Scampi are filing manifests directly to U.S. Customs Service computers for shipping lines that use acceptable manifest forms.
The port's service bureau allows small lines that otherwise might not be able to afford to convert to the Customs Service's automated manifest system to make cargo information available to customers across the country.
Scampi was local, and this is nationwide, said Lea Johnson, marketing director for Gearbulk Container Services of Seattle, the first company to use the port's new automated manifest service bureau. The port provides the computers and pays for everything - for a carrier, this is really a good deal.
The Gearbulk executive, who also chairs the Customs Committee for the Puget Sound Steamship Operators Council, said the improved service doesn't save carriers money, but helps both the Customs Service and customers trying to check on the cargo status.
Mr. McKinnon pointed out that the federal automated manifest system in itself is not new, particularly for larger lines.