As president of a freight forwarder as well as a high-ranking official with a national trade association, Jeffrey Coppersmith has unique insight into the forces at work within his industry (see sidebar, “So what exactly is a freight forwarder anyway?”). He notes with satisfaction the great deal of attention being paid to automating border-crossing activities, particularly through the evolution of the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program.
ACE is an information system that will enable the collection, processing and analysis of commercial import and export data (see sidebar, “CBP ready to play its ace”). It is currently being tested by the CBP, 34 importers and 17 customs brokers.
“Right now, we are working very hard to get everyone on the Automated Export System (AES),” says Coppersmith, president of Coppersmith Inc. and co-chairman of the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America's Freight Forwarding Committee. “It looks like no later than next spring, AES will be mandatory for export activities.”
Using electronic data interchange (EDI) technology, AES is the central point for export information needed by several governmental agencies to be filed. In addition to CBP, the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State, among others, share in the information.
The AES seeks to eliminate filing of paper-based Shipper's Export Declarations (SEDs), sending the information electronically instead. It is a nationwide system for all ports and all transportation modes. Participation in AES is relatively simple, involving three steps — filing a letter of intent, choosing an implementation method and becoming certified.
As automation increases, the job of the forwarder and exporter becomes easier, Coppersmith observes. “Probably 70% to 80% of bills of lading we get now are coming through the Internet,” he notes. “We print them out in-house because we have to it have it with the Letter of Credit and other documentation.”
One problem Coppersmith and other forwarders encounter is the lack of a common communications language on the part of carriers. “One group of carriers uses CargoSmart. A second group uses something else and another group uses yet a third, and it's all different. Being a forwarder, we make sure we are able to work with all carriers. It's just too bad there isn't a standard format.”
The freight forwarder is always the guy in the middle, Coppersmith notes. “The government tells us what it wants us to do, while the customers tell us something else and that it's chiseled in stone. We're the ones who make everything work — that's our job.” LT
Moving a step closer to reaching the goal of complete Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) technology, the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is completing a three-month test of an entry summary for its Periodic Monthly Statements (PMS). The objective of ACE and its paperless environment is to meet regulatory and security trade requirements while maintaining movement of international commerce shipments.
The first successful transmission of PMS was completed by the combined efforts of CBP, TradePoint Systems and Menlo Worldwide Trade Services. Involved in the test are 17 brokers, 34 importers, almost 350 CBP personnel and other trade community representatives.
According to Robert Bonner, commissioner of the CBP, “The launch of periodic payment and other account revenue capabilities marks a key period of growth for ACE and CBP. This is another important step toward enhancing our ability to both protect America's borders and expedite legitimate trade.
“ACE will provide CBP personnel with the information they need to decide what should be targeted because it is a security threat,” Bonner adds, “and what should be expedited because it complies with U.S. laws, before a shipment reaches the border.”