Craig Seelig, WiseTech Global Product Manager for Customs and Compliance Americas, explains what the updated timeline for the mandatory transition to ACE means, and why it’s important to take action now.

On August 31, 2015, Customs and Border Protection announced (via CSMS #15-000644) the mandatory deadline for filing ACE Entry Summaries and ACE Cargo Release Entries has been delayed from November 1, 2015 to February 28, 2016. In addition, the only mandatory PGA data to be filed electronically on February 28th is FDA, NHTSA, and APHIS (Lacey). All other PGAs will be required to be filed electronically in July of 2016. These PGAs include AMS, APHIS Core, ATF, CDC, DCMA, DDTC, DEA, E&C, EPA, FSIS, FWS, NMFS, and TTB. 

What does this mean for CBP?

This gives CBP a little more breathing room in several areas and an opportunity to make improvements.    

  • CBP is still making changes to the functional specifications. Software providers are receiving updated draft specifications as changes are made.
  • CBP has uncovered some issues during the PGA pilot process. While this was to be expected, there are adjustments to be made as CBP sees ACE interacting with each PGA. 
  • We have seen areas where CBP can improve knowledge in the field to better support the trade when it comes to ACE issues. As the pilots are just starting up, we can see CBP and each PGA working together to better understand each other’s processes. The delay presents CBP with a tremendous opportunity to better train their own personnel.

What does this mean for the trade?

For those of us that took ACE seriously and have invested the time, effort, and money into being ready for the November 1, 2015 deadline, the delay is a little disheartening. However, we understand that this was necessary for the greater good.

  • Many filers are not yet filing ACE entry summaries. As of July 2015, only 60% of entry summaries were being filed in ACE, and only 10% of cargo release was being filed in ACE Cargo Release. About 25% of all filers in the US have not even filed an ACE entry summary yet!
  • The new deadline gives some relief to those that might have started late but have put effort into implementing ACE-compliant software. It also gives filers a brief window to re-evaluate where their current software provider stands on ACE. 
  • The pressure on the software vendors is not decreasing; it only continues to build. There is still plenty of new work to be done and ACE changes will continue at a rapid pace. More PGAs are being added to the new July 2016 deadline (FWS, CPSC, and more). New functionality is being introduced into ACE Cargo Release in regards to the PGA updates and PGA holds and releases. CBP has fifteen or so teams putting out new ACE functionality with each increment. 
  • Most software vendors are struggling to complete the programming and some have even closed their doors, unwilling or unable to meet the demands that ACE has brought upon them. You need to ensure that your business is safe with a software vendor that has the resources and “know how” to keep up to date. If your software vendor was warning you that they were not going to be ready or you could sense they were really struggling to keep up, now is the time to look for solutions to minimize the risk to your business.

Understanding the requirements

The delay gives the trade an extended opportunity to prepare for ACE in another way. Brokers need to take PGA reporting seriously, to understand the additional requirements while there is still time.

So far, I have heard several misconceptions. One broker was under the impression that there was going to be minimal additional requirements on their side, that the “single window” just meant that CBP was going to be pushing the entry data to all of these various PGAs, and that this would satisfy the requirements. Another broker that I was speaking to was shocked at the number of data elements that were now going to be required to be entered on each invoice for a particular PGA. Where the broker used to just pass on a form provided by the importer, this data now has to be provided to CBP electronically in the entry. Someone has to enter this data.

I am currently working with a group from the trade that is putting together business process documents for the brokers in regards to each PGA. Brokers need to do their homework now and find out the requirements for each PGA. Brokers will likely need to go back to their importers and inform them of the additional data that will be required for every entry from now on. Brokers may also want to look at setting up EDI interfaces with their clients to receive this data electronically or perhaps build up product libraries that can hold this data. There is still much to be done.

So don’t be fooled into a false sense of relief now that ACE has been pushed back a few months. Don’t believe anything became suddenly easy. In the big picture, the delay means almost nothing. It only gives a minor break to those who are a bit behind. With all of the work still to be done it is not time to take the foot off of the gas. It is still full steam ahead and time to “Embrace ACE” now.


Craig Seelig is WiseTech Global Product Manager for Customs and Compliance, Americas


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