E-manifests will save time

E-manifests will save time

Customs and Border Protection is working to require all motor carriers to get on board with the new electronic manifest program. E-manifest capability is designed to make cargo processing faster, more accurate and more efficient. It is currently available at all ports with the Automated Commercial Environment, Customs' next-generation technology system. While the e-manifest feature now is mandatory, Customs plans to make it mandatory later this year on a port-by-port basis.

Carriers now must submit paper manifests detailing shipment, carrier and other information to enter the U.S.; e-manifests are simply electronically filed manifests. By allowing motor carriers to file information to Customs before a truck arrives at the border, the ACE e-manifest will reduce delays. The automated manifest provides Customs officers with cargo information, such as crew details (driver and passenger); description of conveyance (vehicle, truck, cab); description of equipment (trailer); and shipment details (cargo), so they can begin processing the truck before it arrives at the gate.

Allowing the truck carrier to begin import procedures early will reduce border delays. Truckers will have more time to haul more shipments, increasing their earnings.

An e-manifest works like this: As a truck approaches the primary booth, transponder technology similar to that of a toll-paying device may be used to signal the truck's arrival. If a truck does not have a transponder, the officer uses the vehicle license plate or trip number to retrieve the e-manifest. The e-manifest is automatically retrieved along with matching pre-filed entries, as well as processing in-bond requests and other release declarations.

An e-manifest can be submitted through the Web-based ACE Secure Data Portal or via Customs-approved electronic data interchange procedures, or through both. The portal, essentially a customized home page for authorized users, connects Customs, the trade community and participating government agencies by providing a centralized, online access point for communications and information. It enables carriers to input data, track the customs status of shipments and develop reports.

Data can be stored and reused, making it easier to create new manifests, and reducing the possibility of errors. A broker download feature enables carriers to transmit shipment details quickly to a customs broker or other entry filer. This helps carrier and filer reconcile manifest and entry data, minimizing errors and reducing border delays. Parties may file with Customs directly via the portal at no charge.

Companies may choose to use EDI for filing their e-manifests directly with Customs, or elect to use a third party to submit electronic manifest information via EDI. Third parties usually charge a fee to help carriers file their manifests with Customs. A list of EDI-certified software and application service providers can be found on the Customs Modernization Web site.

The e-manifest capability also makes our borders more secure. The ability to view manifest information early enables Customs officers to prescreen trucks and shipments, and dedicate more time to inspecting suspicious cargo without delaying the border crossings of legitimate carriers.

It is a win-win for everyone to ensure the border-crossing process is as smooth, safe and expeditious as possible - so that goods flow as freely as possible between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico for the benefit of consumers and business alike. That is the spirit of free trade and a guiding principle behind our efforts to develop ACE and present One Face at the Border.

Truck carriers are encouraged to establish ACE truck carrier accounts as soon as possible, or contact a customs broker or service provider to discuss how to file e-manifests. Switching to electronic manifests now will ensure smoother, more efficient truck processing once e-manifests are mandated.

For more information regarding ACE and the rollout schedule, visit the Modernization pages of the Customs Web site at http://www.cbp.gov/modernization, or send an e-mail to CSPO@dhs.gov. Notices announcing mandatory e-manifest dates for each port will be posted on the Web site and in the Federal Register at least 90 days in advance of implementation of the mandatory policy for each port.

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