Take the ACE survey

US Customs is encouraging all importers, brokers, carriers and other trade community users of ACE to take the 2012 Customer Satisfaction Survey “so that it can formally gauge the areas where ACE is doing well and where improvement is needed.”  It will also help CBP prioritize future enhancements.

The survey takes 5 – 10 minutes to complete and is available here.

A Spanish language survey for southern border carriers is available here.

FDA: Ensure renewal of foreign food facility registrations

Importing food into the US from a foreign food facility?  Make sure that facility has a valid — and renewed — registration with the US Food & Drug Administration.  Otherwise, FDA may hold the imported food at the port, or even refuse import of that food.

Last year, FDA experienced a delay with the registration renewal process, and thus had issued a grace period from enforcement for “late” registration renewals submitted prior to January 31, 2013.  Now, however, enforcement will commence.  To that end, FDA offers the following guidance:

…[I]mport filers who file prior notices for food shipments [should] take proactive action and contact clients with high-volume food shipments, inquire about the FSMA food facility registration renewal status of foreign manufacturing facilities associated to their shipments, and confirm any new registration numbers. Doing so could greatly mitigate any prior notice shipment delays related to registration on or after February 1, 2013.

See CBP’s CSMS# 13-000044 for more details.

CBP Commissioner Aguilar to resign

David V. Aguilar, head of US Customs & Border Protection for the last 3 years, is retiring, effective March 31.

US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a statement showcasing Mr. Aguilar’s accomplishments at CBP:

…During his tenure, Commissioner Aguilar led a workforce of over 60,000, including 43,000 uniformed law enforcement officers, focusing on integrated border management, which includes securing our nation’s border from all threats, while facilitating travel and trade.

Under his leadership, attempts to cross the border illegally are down nearly 80 percent from their peak, seizures of illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband are up, and some of the safest communities in America are found in our border states.

He also led CBP to conduct the first West Coast Trade Symposium; expanded its travel facilitation “Trusted Traveler” programs; fully implemented the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010 requirement of 100 percent applicant polygraph screening, ahead of schedule; launched two new Centers of Excellence and Expertise and created six more; and worked with our international partners to facilitate international trade and travel.

Commissioner Aguilar has been integral in leading CBP’s modern transformation, leveraging enhanced technology and training, increased Office of Air and Marine capabilities, and advanced information analysis to assist legal travel and trade….

A successor has yet to be named.

Keeping manifest information confidential in ACE

As a common practice, importers and consignees may submit a request to US Customs, pursuant to 19 CFR 103.31, to keep manifest information confidential.  Our previous blog post on this topic includes several tips to ensure these requests result in the broadest degree of confidentiality.

Recently, importers and consignees who have submitted confidentiality requests have complained to CBP that confidential shipping data — party/shipper/consignee name and address — for ocean freight have nevertheless been disclosed to the public.  After reviewing the matter, Customs has determined that “improper data entry” was the cause.  To avoid this, CBP advises in a recent CSMS publication, when filing e-Manifests in ACE, “the commercial party name fields must ONLY contain commercial party name data.”  Otherwise,

“…the name of the party stored in the ACE database is corrupted because it includes address data. This inaccurate party name data fails the confidentiality edits resulting in confidential business information being shared publicly. This inadvertent disclosure is tied directly to the way in which data is transmitted by users.”

Additional information can be found in CBP’s CSMS #13-000064.

US works to enhance trade with Mexico, EU

The United States continues its efforts to facilitate trade with two of its significant trading partners, Mexico and the European Union.

On the southern border, the US and Mexico recently signed a joint work plan for mutual recognition of each other’s trade security program, CBP’s C-TPAT and Mexico’s New Certified Companies Scheme (NEEC).  Both countries expect to implement the plan in two years.  This is similar to Beyond the Border initiative with our northern trading partner, Canada.

Separately, the US and the EU have renewed efforts to create a free trade zone for their mutual benefit.  Previously, the parties were unable to agree on the harmonization of taxes, tariffs, regulations and standards.  But with economic woes still engrained on both sides of the Atlantic, a free trade zone will likely save hundreds of billions of dollars — on both sides — each year, providing an incentive to find common ground.  Listen to the report from National Public Radio.