For decades businesses have been promised streamlined, paperless solutions for all their business processes. While we’re still nowhere close to a global paperless world, Canada Border Services Agency is doing its best to ensure that 2013 will usher in as many paperless solutions as possible—assuming it can meet its own deadlines.
The third phase of the Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program—more casually known as eManifest—is officially scheduled to get into full swing this year, which means those who ship or carry cargo face key deadlines that will change the way business is conducted.
Trucks and highways
The full eManifest program is being implemented in stages with staggered deadlines. The most concrete deadline was supposed to be May 1, 2013. That’s when eManifest for highway carriers was scheduled to become mandatory, and trucking companies and 3PLs would have been required to electronically submit information about their cargo to CBSA before vehicles arrived at the Canadian border. Carriers who didn’t comply weren’t supposed to be allowed to enter the country.
The information required is the same type information shippers would typically present in paper form (type of cargo, quantity of items shipped, origin of shipment, delivery destination, etc.). The degree of required detail, however, is greater than typically found on paper manifests. Carriers with lower volumes can submit the information using a portal on the CBSA website. Larger-volume carriers can use EDI to send the data.
It seems, however, the concrete hasn’t quite set. Although there has been no official verification from the government, MM&D has learned that some industry organizations are telling their members that the highways carrier deadline has already been bumped. One industry association spokesperson, who requested to remain anonymous, said “I can confirm that the deadline will be pushed back.”
Mississauga, Ontario-based freight forwarder and Customs broker Kintetsu World Express (Canada) Inc (KWE) issued a notice to customers and subscribers of its e-mail alert service which reads, “CBSA announced last week at a Border Commercial Consultative Committee (BCCC) meeting that eManifest for highway has been delayed. May 1, 2013, is no longer the mandatory date. CBSA is hoping for implementation in the fall of this year. This date change will likely.”
According to Dian Wollison, manager of Customs consulting at KWE’s Windsor Customs clearance centre, the information came from a notification sent out to select members of the Canadian Society of Customs Brokers. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website describes the Border Commercial Consultative Committee (BCCC) as providing “CBSA officials and commercial stakeholders with a forum for dialogue on Canada’s border operations”.
Wollison says part of the reason for the delay is “many smaller carriers are not up to speed on this at all” so CBSA is “working on getting more carriers in the loop”.
CBSA originally chose November 1, 2012 to be the mandatory implementation date, but a couple weeks beforehand, “CBSA decided to call it a ‘soft enforcement period’—call it an informed compliance,” explained Deanna Pagnan, director of policy and government relations for the Ontario Trucking Association.
“So while it is considered mandatory, trucks are not currently being turned around at the border. They won’t be ‘AMPed’—receive administrative monetary penalties—if they don’t submit an ACI. Instead the border service officers are providing information. There’s a tear-off sheet that tells them what they should have done under ACI.”
Pushing the deadline from November to May not only gave carriers more time to implement the changes, it also provided CBSA an opportunity to finalize all the program details—an action that hasn’t happened yet. For example, Pagnan says the OTA and other organizations are still working with CBSA to help the agency set some of the AMP rates and penalties, as “they haven’t been developed yet for carriers”.
Pagnan says member carriers who were early adopters of eManifest procedures have, in general, found it to be beneficial.
“They have found value in it. They find they are getting cleared faster.”
Pagnan says she suspects a lot of slow-downs will likely occur around May 1, so it is best for carriers to have their processes in place before that date. Overall, she feels it has been a good move for the industry. “Once it’s fully implemented and we’re through these hiccups it will result in trucks getting over the border faster.”
But it’s not just highway carriers who face a new way of communicating with CBSA. The agency also has a plan applicable to those who employ other methods of bringing goods into the country.
“While they’ve been implementing the highway portion, the CBSA has been designing the next phase, which is a freight forwarder’s house bill implementation,” explained Ruth Snowden, executive director of CIFFA. “We go voluntary in April, 2013 and mandatory in July, 2014.
“CIFFA fully supports Advance Commercial Information, ACI, and this is just ACI phase three. One of the reasons we support it so fully, other than increasing security for all Canadians, is because this will give us, the freight forwarders, the opportunities to go paperless.”
Snowden added that any delays in the highway carrier program shouldn’t affect freight forwarders.
“CIFFA has been assured by the CBSA that the delays to the implementation of mandatory Highway eManifest, which has apparently been caused by delays to the regulatory process, will not affect the freight forwarder eHBL implementation. The mandatory eHBL date of July 2014 is well after the new date for the regulatory changes—and so should go forward as planned.”
As on the truck and highway side, freight forwarders will be presented with options for communicating with CBSA. The agency is currently working on a portal, and getting input from interested parties, including CIFFA about how to design processes so they will be most effective for everyone.
Snowden is excited by the opportunities this will create.
“If, as an industry sector, we just implement eManifest as ACI part three and just provide the data without taking the benefits of changing our processes and eliminating the paper, then we’re not going to get the value. It’s all about this opportunity for value in the supply chain by going paperless,” she said.
While the ideal of the new paperless system is appealing, Snowden says she doesn’t expect it to be realized without difficulties.
“To start with, we have complete inconsistency at every Customs port across the country in how today’s regulations are applied. We hope that by the time we’re fully implemented and mandatory in July 2014, we will have consistency because it’s going to be electronic, but nonetheless I think it’s going to be a nightmare between now and then. And I hesitate to think every Customs officer in the country will understand the new requirements and not individually interpret them, which is the problem we have today,” she said.
“The other thing we have right now, the big scramble, is what is called the ‘D Memoranda’ or ‘the D-Memos’. These are the Customs descriptions of procedures the Customs officers go by. The D-Memos are completely out of date. They have not yet been rewritten to meet the eManifest new normal or end vision.”
Snowden says CIFFA has written to CBSA explaining the critical importance of having the import, the carbon control and the warehousing regulations rewritten to meet the new paperless reality.
Another issue Snowden pointed out is staffing. Once the paperless system is fully implemented and deconsolidation is done before the goods are shipped to Canada, companies may find themselves thinking about reorganizing their internal processes and redeploying human resources.
For anybody interested in learning more about eManifest implementation, CIFFA is running workshops across the country throughout the year. See http://tinyurl.com/CIFFAeMan for details.
New deadline for marine and air carriers
It’s not just highway carriers who will likely experience a delay in deadline implementation. An official notice distributed by CBSA, informs marine and air carriers that one of their deadlines has been pushed back for a month.
The notification, distributed on behalf of Bruna Rados, director general of the CBSA’s major projects directorate states:
“I am writing to you today to advise of a recent change to the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) testing and deployment of system functionality for air and marine carriers to transmit the Conveyance Arrival Certification message and receive associated notification transactions under the Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program.
“The new date for the deployment of electronic systems, initially scheduled for March 25, 2013, is April 28, 2013, to accommodate system adjustments addressing issues identified during internal testing.
“I would also like to note that the testing environment is now available for air and marine clients who have registered for this process with the CBSA’s Electronic Commerce Unit (ECU). The ECU is communicating directly with all registered carriers and service providers to schedule system testing with the CBSA.
“The testing environment will, therefore, be available to external clients for an additional five weeks. This will provide additional time for registered clients to be ready to comply with this new ACI requirement when systems are deployed in April.
“Carriers or their authorized service provider who have not yet registered with the ECU to conduct client testing of the new arrival message and notification transactions are being strongly encouraged to do so in order to be ready in April.”