U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced yesterday that it would drop its Feb. 28 deadline for filing most import entries and associated entry summaries through its Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system in favor of a phased compliance schedule.
CBP also said it would keep the current Automated Commercial System (ACS) that importers and customs brokers use to submit, process, and share information about imports running in parallel for the time being. CBP originally planned to shut ACS down on Feb. 28.
The delay in ACE implementation is in response to the trade community's concerns about the feasibility of meeting the deadline. One of the main reasons importers, customs brokers, and software providers have been struggling is that even as the date drew nearer, CBP continued to update ACE technical specifications and features, said Elizabeth Connell, vice president of product management and the lead on ACE development and integration for Integration Point, a provider of trade compliance software. Those changes included a major change affecting users of foreign trade zones on Jan. 15, just six weeks before the deadline.
Typically, Connell said, software providers, importers, and customs brokers need a minimum of 90 days to program, test, and implement software changes and train users in new procedures.
In addition, CBP was concerned that the percentage of entries being filed in the cargo-release portion of ACE by the beginning of February was far below its target of 50 percent or higher, Connell said in an interview.
Among other changes, the new schedule includes:
Most "participating government agencies" (PGAs)—other federal agencies that have some involvement in U.S. imports and exports—are far from ready to accept data filed through ACE. This capability, known as the "Single Window," will allow filers to submit data once and automatically share it with all affected agencies, rather than file separate reports (often on paper) with each.
The Mar. 31 and May 28 deadlines apply to certain entries and entry summaries involving the two agencies that are farthest along in the process: the Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). About a dozen additional agencies will come online during the summer. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filings will continue to be allowed in ACS until further notice.
The new schedule will not change CBP's plan to achieve full Single Window implementation through ACE in December, the agency said in a statement.
Connell said the new phased deadlines for ACE will help both private industry and government better manage the implementation of the highly complex information system. "[CBP] focused first on the things that they are doing really well and that importers are having great success with," she said. "It gives [the trade community] a more focused project plan for transitioning from ACS to ACE that is more manageable and digestible."