Companies shipping goods across the Canada-U.S. border should use electronic pre-arrival programs to minimize ongoing delays, says Livingston International’s CEO, Peter Luit.
“We’re pleased to hear that Canadian Foreign Affairs minister John Manley raised business concerns about delays with U.S. Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge at their meeting this week. And we are looking forward to initiatives in both countries that will streamline the process for reputable shippers while tightening the net for terrorists. But, in the meantime, there are programs already available that more companies could be using,” said Luit.
Shipments entering Canada from the United States can take advantage of the Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS), a program developed by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency that allows release information to be processed before goods arrive at the border. “We are advising clients with Canada-bound shipments to take advantage of PARS and get us shipment information by any electronic means, including fax, in advance,” said Luit.
Carriers entering the U.S. can apply for the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS), a U.S. Customs program that lets approved drivers forward shipment documentation to the border in advance of their arrival, to speed release.
“We are advising clients shipping into the U.S. to use carriers set up for PAPS, or to encourage their carriers to apply. Both programs are fairly easy to set up and customs brokers are happy to help,” says Luit.
At Livingston International, he says, about 55 per cent of shipments entering Canada use pre-arrival release; figures are lower for U.S.-bound shipments using PAPS, as it is a fairly recent program.
In addition, importers and exporters should make sure their goods are shipped by reputable carriers, says Luit.
“At many places, a larger number of thorough inspections are taking place on a random basis. If Customs does not know the carrier, or has any doubts about the integrity of the carrier or driver, rigorous physical inspections are far more likely. What’s more, traders need to make sure shippers are providing a complete and accurate description of the goods they are carrying. Drivers are also advised to carry photo identification,” said Luit.
Under recent changes to Canada’s Customs Act, government-approved drivers and carriers will be able to use photo-identification smart cards to expedite border crossing.
“This won’t likely go into effect until next year, but it reflects government thinking that customs officials should use their resources more effectively, by focusing more attention on ‘unknown’ traders and travellers than those who they know and trust,” said Luit.
The focus on unknown versus known travellers has prompted both governments to reinstate their pre-screening programs aimed at speeding the flow of pre-approved, low-risk frequent travellers. Canada’s CANPASS program and the joint U.S.-Canada NEXUS pilot were suspended after September 11.
“We are encouraging both governments to quickly implement programs that take this prudent approach to tightening security without closing the doors on our economies. We are closely monitoring legislative proposals, to not only make sure that the results are not unduly restrictive on legitimate cross-border trade, but also to let us know how businesses can best respond to current government priorities,” said Luit.
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