August 2014 | Commentary | IT Matters

Are You Ready to ACE It?

Tags: Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations, Import, Export, Global Trade Management

Christopher Springer is Director of Operations, QuestaWeb, 908-233-2300

On Feb. 19, 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order intended to streamline the export/import process. It establishes December 2016 as the completion date for the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which will allow businesses to transmit, through an electronic "single-window," all the data required to import or export goods.

The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is the technology underpinning the single window envisioned in the ITDS initiative, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has set Nov. 1, 2015, as the date by which shippers must submit most filings electronically via ACE.

Here are four steps you should take today to prepare for ACE:

  1. Be aware of the timeline. Starting May 1, 2015, all electronic export and import manifest data must be transmitted via ACE, and on Nov. 1, 2015, ACE will be mandatory for cargo release, including partner government agency actions. On Oct. 1, 2016, all other cargo-related transactions will use ACE.
  2. Get a grasp on the new data requirements associated with ACE. For imports, the format requirements for the existing automated broker interface and ACE are similar. Key differences do exist in the identifiers for the types of transactions, however. Further, ACE brings new data requirements.
    For example, one new data element in the entry summary and cargo release documentation is the "first sold-to party." This mandatory item reflects CBP's intensified focus on domestic trade participants. When an entry involves a commercial invoice with multiple sold-to parties, each one must be reported.
  3. Get comfortable with the paperless environment. Most brokerage and freight forwarding companies, as well as import compliance departments, operate in a paper-intense environment. CBP is requiring all trade partners to move toward a paperless environment. Companies must develop systems for keeping all the electronic documents in one place, and assuring the files are backed up and safely stored. Training and equipping staff to follow the new procedures is essential.
  4. Set milestones and establish due dates. Make a plan to move your organization toward full ACE readiness. Determine the tasks you need to accomplish to meet the May and November 2015 deadlines, and establish firm due dates. Build some lag time into your schedule to address any problems before each CBP date.

Partner for ACE Compliance

Many parties in the trade community will look to their software vendor to facilitate ACE compliance. The ideal vendor should possess these three qualities:

  1. Early acceptance of ACE. In 2009, CBP offered software providers the opportunity to have their technology tested and certified for compatibility with ACE. Ensure any vendor you engage is on that list, and note its certification date.
  2. Web-native tools. Web-based platforms enable secure technology that is accessible to more people in more corporate locations. They also provide mobility and flexibility.
  3. Current clients operating in the ACE environment. With every regulatory change, there are early adopters. Evaluate whether the software provider is actively encouraging all clients to transition to ACE as soon as possible. That will signal whether the vendor is open to or resistant to change.

Now is the time to ensure you are ready for ACE. Learn about the initiative and its requirements, and verify your current processes and technology are up to the challenge.