TONY SEIDEMAN - EDI EXCHANGE

TONY SEIDEMAN - EDI EXCHANGE

GIVE THE LANDLUBBERS A BREAK - but do it carefully.

The U.S. Customs Service is concentrating too much of its Automated Customs Service (ACS) efforts on oceanside ports, members of the maritime electronics community said.Hooking up inland ports to ACS topped discussions at a recent meeting between the EDI Association's Ocean Standards Maintenance Committee and Customs, attendees said.

Two other topics hit hot buttons:

* Customs' unique bill of lading numbering system.

* Plans by Customs to market data collected by its Automated Manifest System.

Customs is working on creating a new module of ACS that will focus on inbound cargo - shipments that are discharged at a port and moved to internal points. Tests of the new system will begin with Sea-Land Service Inc. and Maersk Lines around May 1, meeting attendees said.

According to one executive present, the response was Great. What about training in ACS for the inland Customs districts. Up to now all the training and implementation has been done at the seaports.

Inland sites named as especially in need of support and implementation were St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Following the rapidly developing transportation automation tradition, Customs gave the attendees the answer they wanted, only they didn't really want it. Plans are to have those sites on-line and running by Dec. 1, 1988. That's too soon, attendees protested.

Fear of strangling in electronic glitches creates the sense of caution, automation executives said. The training takes a little time, especially for something like Customs (data entry) where you have to be very specific about what you want to do, one of those present said.

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WE'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER, or at least we're trying, was one of the exchanges between Customs and the attendees at the Ocean Standards meeting.

One of the sharper disputes between ship lines and Customs in recent months has been over the number that is assigned to each bill of lading.

Maritime executives have complained the systems Customs has developed would force them to spend millions in restructuring basic business documents. Customs has said it would listen and respond to any industry comments.

Ears are opening, attendees said. Finally they're starting to listen to what we've got to say, one said. But not too hard: It doesn't look like Customs is going to be able to back off much, he said.

* * * * *

HEY, THAT'S OUR DATA you're selling, was a loudly voiced protest at the Ocean Standards gathering.

Seems maritime community members are becoming increasingly perturbed about Customs plan to put data collected through its Automated Manifest System up for sale.

In the Jan. 15 Federal Register, the Customs Service announced that it was considering Automated Manifest System information.

We have some rather violent objections to that, one maritime executive said. That's our customer list, he said. Bias is also present, users protest. While information collected electronically will go on the block, manifests submitted on paper will not.

Maybe we should just back out of AMS and go back to paper, grumbles one ocean liner executive.