Last summer a collective sigh of relief was uttered when the United States Customs and Border Protection pushed back a key deadline for the Automated Commercial Environment [ACE] by four months.

Under the new plan, the mandatory deadline for all electronic entry and entry summaries in ACE – which many were dreading – was pushed back to February 28 from November 1. The idea was that November 1 would instead serve as the start of a “transition period … to allow industry and participating government agencies more time to test and provide feedback as they fully transition into the new system.”

Well guess what? November 1 has come and gone. It’s time to get transitioning. The ACE Race has begun in earnest.

Speaking at the WESCCON conference in Palm Springs a couple of weeks back, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske had a clear message for the 300+ attendees: folks need to start using ACE ASAP so his people can troubleshoot any issues that arise before the February 28 deadline kicks in.

Unfortunately, early adopters have been few and far between.

ACE Entry Summary filing has been available now for three years, but only 67 percent of available entries are being submitted via ACE. And that’s much better than the numbers for ACE Cargo Release. While ACE Cargo Release is expected to undergo additional changes over the next few months, the base processing is not changing and filers can use it today. But only about 8 percent of available Cargo Release filings have been submitted through ACE.

The biggest challenges have come with the filings for Partner Government Agencies [PGAs], such as the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. The FDA has only received 94 entry lines with PGA data since August – with 84 of them originating from a single broker. To put that in perspective, the FDA usually receives about 32 million lines a year.

Elsewhere, the Environmental Protection Agency has only had three entries filed, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives just nine. Needless to say this needs to pick up if Customs’ shakedown cruise of the new system is to work as designed.

Everyone realizes ACE can be intimidating. The data requirements for PGAs are much more extensive than they had been, and the one constant has been change. Things are fluid. But shippers and brokers can’t be waiting until the last minute to get on top of this. They need to start figuring out what they need to do to be ready for February. Training will be key, and brokers are going to need to carve out some time for it.

In an effort to help smooth the transition, Kewill is producing a series of video learning labs that will give our existing customers an overview of the ACE Portal and demonstrate how Kewill Customs interacts with it. So customers should keep an eye on their inbox for an invitation in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking. If you haven’t done the prep work you need to be ready for ACE, there’s not much time left. The starter’s gun has been fired and it’s time to hit the ground running – or risk getting left in the dust.

Next Steps