US freight forwarders: Trouble haunts ACE deployment

US freight forwarders: Trouble haunts ACE deployment

US Customs House, New York, NY.

A white paper released by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America concludes that a program designed to streamline trade is still a “work in progress” that is “still in need of a substantial infusion of common sense policy, solid programming, additional budget allocation and good government oversight.” Photo credit: Shutterstock.

A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program designed to streamline cross-border trade continues to demonstrate a host of deficiencies and flaws even as the deployment of the last phase on Saturday approaches, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) said Wednesday.

A white paper on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program released by the NCBFAA concludes that it is still a “work in progress” that is “still in need of a substantial infusion of common sense policy, solid programming, additional budget allocation and good government oversight.”

The ACE system — an electronic filing system — was designed with the intent of streamlining cross-border trade, replacing the antiquated Automated Commercial System (ACS) and enabling shippers to easily transmit documents with government agencies, saving time and money. The project has struggled, however, and is more than three years behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget.

The US CBP agency began deploying the ACE system in 2013 and has slowly introduced new features along the way, the NCBFAA said. The deployment of some were postponed at various times due to problems with implementation. Saturday will be the deployment of the remaining outstanding features, the NCBFAA said.

Although “great strides” in the project had been made, there remained “multiple critical developments that still need to be funded and scheduled,” the NCBFAA said.

These include the fact that the system “is not capable of consistently providing a stable release date for goods clearing the border,” the white paper said. In addition, the messaging systems that the CBP has in place to communicate directions and guidance to filers to help their transactions is “inconsistent, duplicative, [and] prone to incorrect interpretation.”

The system’s “entry summary” — documentation necessary to enable US CBP to assess duties, collect statistics, and determine whether other requirements of law have been met — also has problems, the white paper said. These include problems with currency conversion, the program interface, and the remote filing system, the white paper said. And the post-entry process, in which filers can correct or reconcile information and protest actions, also has challenges, the white paper said.

The US CBP in January 2017 indefinitely postponed the rollout of several functions of its troubled ACE filing system. The agency said the deployment of post-release capabilities for the ACE system, including liquidation, drawback, reconciliation, duty deferral, collections, statements, and the Automated Surety Interface would be postponed.

Contact Hugh R. Morley at Hugh.Morley@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @HughRMorley_JOC.