Time to get in gear on e-manifests

The countdown is on. Motor carriers crossing the borders at land ports in the states of Washington and Arizona and at select ports in North Dakota will be required to submit electronic manifests beginning on or shortly after Jan. 25, 2007. The mandatory e-manifest policy was announced in the Oct. 27 Federal Register. Affected ports have approximately 90 days following publication of the Federal Register notice to prepare for the mandatory requirement.

Carriers crossing through ports listed in the notice should begin making arrangements to use e-manifests. The policy eventually will be made mandatory at all land border ports.

E-manifest capability for trucks is available at all land border ports featuring the Automated Commercial Environment, the commercial trade-processing system being developed by Customs to facilitate trade while strengthening border security.

The following ports will begin requiring e-manifests on or shortly after Jan. 25:

-- All ports in the states of Washington and Arizona.

-- Pembina, Neche, Walhalla, Maida, Hannah, Sarles, and Hansboro ports in North Dakota.

Schedules detailing when other ports will implement the policy will be announced via subsequent Federal Register notices, as well as on Customs' Web site, 90 days before implementation.

An e-manifest is an electronically filed version of the paper manifest that carriers already are required to submit before crossing the U.S. border. An e-manifest can be submitted through the Web-based ACE Secure Data Portal, or via Customs-approved Electronic Data Interchange.

The ACE Secure Data Portal is essentially a customized Web site for authorized users that connects Customs, the trade community and participating government agencies by providing a single, integrated, online access point for communications and information. The portal allows users to input data, track the status of a truck and cargo, develop a variety of reports and store information for future use. There is no charge to use the portal, although users must provide their own Internet access.

Companies may also use EDI for filing an e-manifest directly with Customs, or elect to use a third party to submit electronic manifest information via EDI or the portal. Third parties usually charge a fee to help carriers file manifests. Companies may build their own EDI software, which must be tested for Customs compatibility, or purchase or lease software from service providers.

A list of software vendors can be found on the Customs Modernization Web site, www.cbp.gov/modernization, under "Truck Carrier Information on ACE." Click on the link on the right called "ACE Electronic Truck Manifest Software Developers." Lists of brokers can also be found on the site under Broker and Importer Information on ACE.

The Pre-Arrival Processing System and other entry-release systems will continue to be in use at all ACE and non-ACE ports throughout and after the implementation of the mandatory e-manifest policy. ACE supports existing entry-release processes, including PAPS, the Border Release Advanced Selectivity System, in-bond processing and Section 321 processing, as well as the Free and Secure Trade program. PAPS will continue to be used as a mechanism for the submission of entry data. The transmission of an e-manifest still requires either an entry or an in-bond movement authorization for the goods to proceed.

Generally, an e-manifest must be received no later than one hour before the carrier reaches the first U.S. port of arrival. For truck carriers arriving with shipments qualified for clearance under the FAST program, the e-manifest must be received no later than 30 minutes prior to the carrier's reaching the first U.S. port of arrival.

ACE deployment will be complete at all land ports along the southern border and most on the northern border when Customs begins to implement the mandatory e-manifest policy at the first group of ports. The exceptions are those in Maine, Alaska and certain ports in Minnesota.

Motor carriers should establish ACE truck carrier accounts, or contact a customs broker, service provider or other authorized filer to discuss how to submit e-manifests.

For more information regarding ACE, e-manifests and the rollout schedule, visit the Customs Modernization Web site, or e-mail ACENow@dhs.gov.

Louis Samenfink is executive director of the Cargo Systems Program Office at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He can be contacted at (703) 650-3000, or at AceNow@dhs.gov.

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