CBP, Fish and Wildlife retest automated import data submission

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it will reinitiate a test to receive electronic data submissions in its umbrella computer system from importers and customs brokers pertaining to shipments regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

FWS has begun accepting applications from trade members to participate in the test, which will become operational in CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) on April 6.

Previously, importers or their customs brokers submitted all import documentation related to FWS-regulated fish, animal and plant products directly to the agency. In recent years, the U.S. government has attempted to migrate agencies with regulatory oversight of trade, such as FWS, to interface with the import industry through ACE.

This latest test in ACE among CBP, FWS and the import industry will be the third since May 2016. Each test has been limited so that the agencies could make necessary program modifications. The second test operated for 90 days, starting May 23, 2018.

“Following the suspension of the modified test, CBP worked closely with FWS and members of the trade to improve the design of the FWS test,” CBP said in a Federal Register notice on Thursday. “Consequently, CBP is not prepared to reopen the FWS test for public participation, with the additional modifications.”

Since the second test, CBP has modified its ACE programming to remove several record identifiers and other data elements to improve functionality. The new test in ACE will provide participants with four filing options to submit FWS import data, disclaimers or documents, CBP said.

The Washington-based National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) has worked closely with both CBP and FWS to improve the ACE functionality pertaining to the submission of fish and wildlife import data.

“They have taken the feedback provided by trade through the NCBFAA to heart and applied it constructively to make the rollout of the new program as painless as possible,” Michael Lahar, corporate compliance officer of northern border customs broker A.N. Deringer, told American Shipper.

In preparation for the third ACE test, FWS, at the suggestion of the NCBFAA, reduced its original list of required Harmonized Tariff Schedule numbers to 268. FWS also provided customs brokers with a document that maps the process from paper form to the required partner government agency message set in ACE.

“They have been working hard with industry stakeholders and listening to the issues confronting all parties with the new process,” said Myra Reynolds, director of import compliance with Savannah, Georgia-based John S. James Co. and co-chair of the NCBFAA’s Regulatory Affairs Committee. “I think it will be a positive process moving forward, especially with the flexibility they have added.”

“As with any new requirement, the amount of effort put into getting your staff and clients prepared will be reflected in the success of the implementation,” Lahar said.