Sep 08

ACE Transition Update 2016-9-8

CSMS# 16-000794 – Updated ACE Transition Timeline

09/08/2016 10:38 AM EDT

Ocean Manifest

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been assessing stakeholder readiness for the mandatory transition of post-release capabilities in ACE and has heard from key industry partners on the need for additional flexibility in this transition. As a result, CBP is moving this date from October 1, 2016 to October 29, 2016 to allow additional time for our trade stakeholders to transition these capabilities to ACE.

This adjustment affects the mandatory filing of liquidation, drawback, reconciliation, duty deferral, collections, statements, and automated surety interface.

All capabilities included in the October 29, 2016 transition that are planned for but not yet deployed to the Certification environment (CERT) will be operational in CERT, and all known prioritized issues will be resolved, no later than September 30, 2016.

While CBP has implemented the capability for most Partner Government Agency (PGA) data to be filed electronically in ACE, trade users may continue to file a combination of CBP electronic data and PGA paper forms where that is currently permitted.

* APHIS Lacey, NHTSA, FDA and as of 9/20/16, NMFS, data is required to be

filed electronically in ACE.

* For PGA data that is not required to be filed electronically in ACE, filers

may file using options currently specified as available for those PGAs.

* CBP will continue to coordinate and communicate as required the conclusion of

PGA pilots via public notices.

To ensure quick resolution of any issues that may arise following the October 29th deployment, CBP will stand up an operations center to support the transition to ACE for post-release capabilities for CBP users. Trade users will continue to contact their assigned Client Representative as the first line point of contact. Client Representatives will escalate trade issues as needed to the operations center. Additional information on support during the transition will be published prior to the October 29th deployment.

The information in this notice will be posted on by September 8.

May 17

Not Your Father’s Import Logistics Strategy

As I am writing this article in 2016, I have no wires going to my stereo speakers, my TV is paper thin and plays the internet, I have no landlines anymore for my phone, my neighbor has a car that doesn’t use gasoline, I hear that the new cell phone case that I ordered might be delivered by drone some day, and my phone’s screen is showing me that my Uber driver is just around the corner.

When I step into my world of importing containers from far off lands, I seem to time travel back to the 1980’s and 1990’s. Oh yes, a few things have changed, no Telex, fewer faxes, fewer phone calls, more emails, typing documents on the computer rather than the Selectric etc…  But, the “structure” of importing is still the same old inflexible, passive and unresponsive model that was designed just after the 1984 Shipping Act.

This IS still your father’s Buick!

Today, it is common for importers to still be using one, two or more NVOCC partners who also include their own in-house CHB and tracking system. This is a static import strategy that is slow to respond to changing conditions and is expensive.  Little has changed since 1984. Those who use two or more NVOCC’s use it to “spread the risk”, and “not put all the eggs in one basket”.  

The following is a visual representation of how the Freight Forwarder, foreign supplier, NVOCC, CHB, Tracking System and Delivery Management components are connected and duplicated in the traditional & static import logistics strategy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 8.49.29 AM

In the traditional strategy, the importer normally allocates a set of suppliers to book with forwarder A, and another set of suppliers to book with forwarder B. Those suppliers are given these instructions weeks or months in advance of the ready date.

When we step back and observe the old structure visually, we immediately notice some redundancies that our LEAN Master friends would title: WASTE.  Two forwarders, two CHB’s, two tracking / data management systems. This also means two sets of:  SOP’s, Compliance/KPI Agreements, CSR’s overseas and CSR’s in the U.S. etc.  If a spot rate forwarder is added, now there are 3 of everything.

The new spot rate environment has rates changing every 3 or 4 days. The traditional import structure is not designed with the flexibility needed to quickly switch to the best rate.

Switching to a new forwarder with a traditional structure is a problem. It prevents switching in a low risk, rapid and easy way. Even when that new forwarder might be offering rates $300-$500 per container lower than their current costs, the change-over is too cumbersome and the suitors are often turned away. The obstacles are Change-Over Costs, Friction, and Lag.

I have seen companies that import 1000 containers per year miss 9 months of a $300.00/container savings! This was because their import structure was not agile enough to take a trial run on a previously unknown forwarder with a great spot rate, or on a forwarder recommended by their supplier, or on an offer from a direct carrier, or even an offer from a Shipper’s Association.

That lack of agility (flexibility) has cost those companies a quarter of a million dollars in lost savings in a single year! Most importers have missed these savings during the last three years.

In 2014, I put my APICS CSCP “supply chain” training to work on replacing this traditional & static strategy. What I found was that when measured against the attributes of reliability, responsiveness, flexibility/agility, and costs (SCOR Model), and a LEAN perspective, the traditional & static strategy predictably fell far short.

Using these same attributes, I designed a “Modern & Agile Import Logistics Strategy” for Alliance International, Inc. as a service for its customers.  The Modern & Agile strategy performs significantly higher in reducing annual freight spend, reducing lead times, increasing responsiveness, reliability (on-time delivery) and flexibility/agility.

What are the significant changes in the import logistics industry that created this opportunity for a new strategy?

Three major evolutions have occurred that allows us to adopt a modern & agile strategy:

  • Technology that moves data throughout the import lifecycle. Specifically, web-based technology (the cloud)
  • Containerization has become a “commodity”. The lowest pricing on full container transportation has become the domain of the direct carriers, low-cost operators such as the Chinese NVOCC’s and the Shippers Associations.
  • The rise of the Spot Rate market.

We can take these three evolutionary elements into the equation and reconfigure the components to achieve high performance on all the attributes. This means we reconfigure the Forwarder, Suppliers, Ocean Transportation Providers (OTP’s), CHB, Data-Management, and Delivery function relationships into an efficient and effective agile structure.

This modern and agile import logistics strategy:

  • Gets a “thumbs up” from our LEAN Master.
  • Reduces direct and indirect supply chain costs. i.e. transportation spend, inventory carrying costs, cancelled orders.
  • Let’s the importer switch ocean transportation providers in a split second to get the best rate available in the market on that day, or capture lift during a week when the vessels are overbooked.
  • Results in sustainably high scores in process compliance and KPI’s.
  • Stabilizes and shortens the importer’s lead times.
  • Allows the importer to shrink it’s safety stock of inventory.
  • Results in the importer achieving higher on-time delivery to it’s customers, reduced cancelled orders, and therefore, higher customer satisfaction benefits.

To investigate how this modern & agile import logistics structure can benefit your supply chain, email me at






Feb 05

ACE Deadline Extended – Update


WASHINGTON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection will extend deadlines for certain criteria that will be required after the rollout of its “single window” initiative on Feb. 28, according to the brokers, forwarders, importers and exporters who say they simply won’t be ready to meet those requirements by the end of the month.

Customs has already extended the deadline once before for the initiative, long-delayed and over budget by more than $1 billion, after a rash of similar complaints and concerns. The agency, though, has not said one way or the other whether it will hold fast to its February deadline. The agency said only that it continues to evaluate industry readiness and intends to move forward with the transition in “a way that does not disrupt the flow of commerce.”

The single window system, otherwise known as the automated commercial environment, or ACE, promises to consolidate, automate and modernize border processing. When complete, its single, electronic portal will allow importers and exporters to share trade documents with government agencies, saving shippers and brokers time and money.

“But it isn’t ready,” Jon Kent, spokesman for the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, told

Kent’s group represents more than 1,000 freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries, NVOCCs and air cargo agents. The association sent a letter dated Jan. 8 to CBP requesting the agency halt all software developments tied to the rollout of ACE on Feb. 28.

According to the group, because the single window is being constantly updated, with some changes slated to be introduced on the transition date of Feb 28., shipper software will not be able to handle some changes, which could result in bugs and other technical problems that may delay shipments and create costs. Should there be problems with the single window, shippers will be left without recourse to file customs paperwork because the old system for filing this necessary documentation is set to be shut down on the same day the single window takes effect.

Moreover, just 17 percent of imports are currently being processed through ACE, according to customs broker Livingston International. It’s a far cry from full implementation, said Livingston’s CEO Steven Preston.

It’s not just shippers and brokers, he added. Some of the largest partner government agencies aren’t prepared. Some, such as the Food and Drug Administration, had planned to be online by November of last year. Others, such as the Fish & Wildlife Service, admitted early on they could never make that deadline and put off implementation until early 2016.

“Even FDA is still in pilot, there is still program activity occurring,” Preston said. It’s understandable, he said, given the “vast and complicated” migration and the fact “there are so many different kinds of goods that require FDA clearance.”

“This is a big deal,” said Preston.

“Whether it’s not ready because the trade isn’t ready or not ready because Customs isn’t ready, the deadline needs to be modified,” Kent said.

Kent and Preston said CBP has welcomed the idea of “carveouts,” extended deadlines for certain functionalities that a broad section of filers will have challenges implementing, or that may cause commercial hardship to filers or the supply chain.

It wouldn’t mean delaying the rollout of a general rollout for ACE on Feb. 28. Customs would still get to keep its historic “milestone,” Kent said. It would just mean an extended deadline for certain functions and requirements.

“They should be able to look at all the different things that ACE is doing and should do, pick up problem areas, and make a carve out for those functions,” Kent said. “Not for them all, not across the board and not for specific types of importers.”

Such “carveouts” were suggested at CBP’s meeting with its advisory COAC in January.

“We know that in the COAC meeting CBP said, ‘Yes, we’ll act on this in two weeks.’ But, in two weeks you’re staring down that Feb. 28 deadline,” said Marianne Rowden, president and CEO of the American Association of Exporters and Importers.

Rowden, Kent and Preston believe they have CBP’s support, or at least the support of the agency’s advisory committee. But, there’s no way to know for sure as CBP has yet to make its contingency plans public.

Rowden’s association has sent a letter to Customs Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting the agency make that contingency plan public sooner rather than later.

“Whatever carveouts, contingency plans, how CBP is approaching this Feb. 28 deadline, please make that public as soon as possible,” Rowden said.

Both Kent and Preston are confident it will be.

“I think they’re listening. They’ve been very open to talk to the industry,” Preston said.

It’s a level of certainty, though, that is not apparent in official statements from the federal agency that will ultimately decide the matter.

CBP has not said whether it intends to hold fast to the February deadline or not.

“CBP has established an approach in coordination with trade to address any new technical issues that may be identified as new filers come on board for the February milestone,” the agency told in a statement.

The ACE implementation was originally was set for November of last year. But, in last August, CBP extended the deadline another four months, after customs brokers and software providers said the slow release of technical specifications did not give them enough time to conduct the necessary programming, integration, testing and revisions.

Now, nearly four months later, the agency said it is fielding input from stakeholders and is aware there remain concerns. CBP said it is evaluating industry readiness and intends to move forward with the transition in “a way that does not disrupt the flow of commerce.” It would not say whether that meant another deadline extension, a partial extension for certain criteria or something else entirely.

It bears noting that up until August, when CBP extended its original deadline, the agency maintained it hadno intention of backing down from its November rollout date. Up until it announced the change, the agency told only that it was “actively assessing the stakeholder readiness.”

Contact Reynolds Hutchins at and follow him on Twitter: @Hutchins_JOC.

Sep 30

ISF Enforcement Changes in Los Angeles/Long Beach

On July 9, 2013, nearly 15 months ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) implemented an Importer Security Filing (ISF) Enforcement Strategy to improve ISF compliance.  The ISF policy requires that all ISF information on the shipment bound for the U.S. is submitted to CBP 24 hours prior to lading on the vessel at the foreign port.  To date, CBP at the Los Angeles/Long Beach (LA/LB) Seaport has been enforcing this policy, using a measured approach of 48 hours prior to the vessel arriving at the port.

On October 1, 2014, the LA/LB Seaport will be increasing their enforcement posture for ISF no-file shipments.  CBP will place manifest holds on all cargo (full container loads and consolidated loads) that does not have an ISF on file 72 hours before vesselarrival at the LA/LB Seaport.  CBP will manually monitor the existing holds to ensure the ISF information has been filed.

Based on the ISF information filed, CBP will determine if the ISF information submitted warrants additional enforcements actions, including issuing Liquidated Damages Cases for repeat offenders that are not filing ISF information.

If there are any questions about ISF manifest holds the trade community may contact CBP via email at  after vessel arrival to request a shipment status.  Questions about manifest holds should not be sent to the Trade Interface Unit (TIU).

Jun 06

New ISF Enforcement Strategy Implemented by CBP

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that they are taking another step in its measured ISF enforcement strategy.  There are still many shipment arriving without the Importer Security Filing (ISF) matched to the manifest for ocean shipments arriving at United States ports of entry. CBP needs the advance data to properly assess the security risks of the arriving cargo. While some penalty cases were issued when CBP began its first measured enforcement up until the past May 13, CBP has not been issuing penalty cases for liquidated damages for ISF violations for some time. They have been holding cargo for the missing data in many ports.

Under the new measured enforcement that went into effect on May 13, 2014, CBP at the local Ports can begin actions for those shipments that do not have the ISF matched to the bill of lading on a manifest before the vessel arrives in most Ports. While the law clearly calls for the ISF to be filed before the vessel is loaded, CBP will, for now, require the data be received and matched generally 48 hours before the vessel arrives for ISF violation review.  There will be different time frames for voyages that have a less than 48 hours time frames from the time of departure to the actual arrival. The Ports with those challenges will set reasonable time frames for the data to be received to do proper security review.  Read Full Article…

May 30

Trusted Trader Program Pilot Announcement Expected Soon – STR

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske indicated recently that a Federal Register notice soliciting volunteers to help pilot test an integrated Trusted Trader program should be published in the near future. CBP has delayed the launch of this pilot, which was initially planned for last fall, amid efforts to make the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission part of it.  Read Full Article…

May 10

All Customs Brokers Are Not Created Equal

Given the demands of global business and the rapid pace of change in international regulations and customs policies, businesses are increasingly reliant on their service providers to ensure that their goods flow seamlessly across global supply chains. Building a partnership with your service provider can create operational efficiencies, allowing you to focus on your core business and, ideally, making your company more competitive. But not all service providers are created equal – and a less than optimal partnership can affect your bottom line. Regular audits that include performance reviews and benchmarks can help you ensure that your service provider is meeting your needs and serving as a strategic partner in the overall success of your business. There are many areas that you can audit, but to get a general overview of some key considerations, you may want to ask yourself the following questions.  read more…

Mar 18

Sharpening Trade Compliance Through Automation and Data Quality

It might sound simple to say that every company involved in international trade would benefit from automation, but many companies still don’t fully recognize the value of moving to an automated environment. Perhaps no other aspect of global trade has more latent value than the automation of compliance processes. It reduces the need for shippers to devote human resources to manually re-keying data in documents, or collating spreadsheets from different departments or regions.

It also improves compliance accuracy, as an automated process using accurate underlying data will invariably be more error-free than a manual process. There’s a reason it’s called “human error.” This two-pronged benefit—getting more efficient while becoming more accurate—is what makes compliance technology so compelling…read more.

Jan 16

ISF Enforcement Update

To: LACBFFA Members,

U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has told us that on January 20 they are increasing their enforcement posture.  CBP will increase the number of manifest holds for ISF non-compliant consolidated shipments.   Additionally, CBP will continue to place manifest holds on all cargo shipments, both regular and consolidated containers that do not have an ISF on file 48 hours before the arrival of the vessel.  After the holds are placed, CBP will manually review those existing holds no sooner than 72 hours after vessel arrival to look to verify if the ISF information has been filed and matched to the manifest

After the ISF is posted as filed, CBP will do its review for possible exam.  Based on the ISF information filed, CBP will determine if the ISF information submitted warrants additional enforcements actions, including Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) and/or a warehouse examination.

CBP will continue to follow it procedures to allow for the move of containers with consolidated cargo on ISF hold on any particular house bill of lading to its designated Container Freight Station (CFS) once a hold on the offending house bill(s) of lading has been coordinated with the CFS.

The trade community may contact CBP, via email at 72 hours after vessel arrival to request a status of a shipment on ISF hold.