Progress in getting the aviation industry to accept systems that allow them to deal electronically with the U.S. Customs Service has been slow, executives and officials say.
But the gradual pace may prove beneficial, some executives added. Lengthy development time will allow Customs and$companies to more easily work out the problems involved in the transmission of manifest data electronically instead of on paper.A manifest is a list of all the cargo contained in a given aircraft. Customs is accepting manifest data electronically through its Air Automated
So far Air-AMS is in use in two airports: John F. Kennedy International in New York and Anchorage International in Alaska. The number of carriers involved with the system is also relatively small: Federal Express Corp., Japan Airlines and Nippon Cargo Airlines.
Acceptance of Air-AMS by brokers, forwarders and consolidators has been even slower. At Kennedy, the main test site for the system, only one broker and one consolidator are hooked up to Air-AMS.
"Nobody seems to be jumping on the bandwagon," said Jack Gencarelli, president, LTS Data Communications Inc., Merrick, N.Y.
"There should be more evidence of activity in this area than there is is," said Wilfred Greenway, president, Airport Consulting Services, Valley Stream, N.Y.
The problem is "you've got to get the people that don't understand technical matters to allocate money for something that they really don't understand," Mr. Greenway said.
Cost is another of the reasons why Air-AMS acceptance has not moved rapidly.
"One of the problems is a lot of the carriers don't have the money to initially invest in it," said Bill Concannon, JAL's assistant to the vice president and regional manager at JFK.
Companies have to invest considerable money and manpower to get an Air-AMS link working, he said.
A slow pace for Air-AMS implementation may work out well for the aviation community, said Abe M. Knipper, president, Abe M. Knipper Inc., a JFK-based customs broker and freight forwarder.
Not all members of the aviation community, however, are disturbed by the pace of Air-AMS' acceptance.
"In a way, we may be better off this way," Mr. Knipper said. "I'm glad its going at the pace its going because all the problems are being ironed out beforehand."
Customs officials said Air-AMS is a long-term project.
"Customs expected it to be over a long period of time, because it is a voluntary system," said Irwin Gold, supervising customs inspector, JFK.
"We are encouraging participation by going out and having meetings with members of the airport community," Mr. Gold said.
That's not enough, LTS' Mr. Gencarelli said.
"I don't think they're getting enough information out," he said. Customs should publish newsletters and engage in more active promotional efforts to push the technology, he said.
LTS publishes Air-AMS software. So far it hasn't found any customers. In an attempt to boost business, the company cut the installation price for its package from $1,200 to $850, and reduced the monthly maintenance fee from $600 to $450.
Micro Software Services Inc., Miami, found two customers for its software package. But Steven Graham, vice president, is not concerned about the pace of Air-AMS's acceptance.
"Increased public awareness of the capabilities of AMS will have a snowball effect," among carriers, he said. Once that happens, the industry will follow.