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ACE e-Manifest in 500 Words

As a rule of international trade, carriers have always been required to manifest, or "make evident", what they are transporting between countries.

Blame the Terrorists

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the concern that future terrorism efforts could come through international trade, US Customs was mandated by Congress via the Trade Act of 2002 to implement some means of receiving electronic cargo information in advance of shipment arrival.

Enter ACE e-Manifest

ACE e-Manifest is the Customs program that provides that means. Customs began working on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) in the mid-90s. When the Trade Act of 2002 was passed, Customs began more intense work on the specific e-Manifest application that would meet the advanced notification requirements.

Because e-Manifest was not ready by the deadline set by the US Congress, Customs created the Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) to fill the gap. PAPS allowed the advanced information requirements to be met through Customs entries. This continues to be an acceptable means of meeting the advanced notification requirements, except at Ports where e-Manifest has moved into Phase 3 Enforcement - red states on the e-Manifest Port Guide. When e-Manifest is fully implemented at a port, PAPS is no longer an acceptable means of meeting the advanced information requirements.

A Chink in the Armor

Through its printed materials, website, and seminars, Customs has consistently painted ACE e-Manifest as being in the best interest of the trucking industry due to decreased paperwork, shorter lines at the border, faster truck processing, and decreased cargo examinations. In reality however, more paperwork is currently required, many frontline Customs inspectors feel that ACE is actually slower to use, and inspections have increased due to the discrepancies created by the increased number of data fields recorded in e-Manifest.

Ready, Set, Wait

Carriers are permitted to cross the border 1 hour after e-Manifest confirmation is returned by US Customs. If FAST e-Manifest is filed, and all entries are also filed via FAST, wait times are reduced to 30 minutes after e-Manifest confirmation. During Phase 1, 2, and 3 Enforcement, no wait times are to be enforced.

FDA is the Exception, Again

The only exception to these time criteria is if a shipment is subject to the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. In that case, the mandatory wait time for the FDA is 2 hours after filing FDA Prior Notice information. Note that FDA Prior Notice can be filed with estimated information prior to filing e-Manifest information with Customs. In other words, the two hour wait time is not for e-Manifest, but for FDA Prior Notice only.

Customs Entries are Still Required

While ACE e-Manifest meets Customs' manifesting and advanced notification requirements, it doesn't meet Customs' entry requirements. Customs entries are still required to be electronically filed by the Importer of Record or via a US Customs Broker.

Customs entries differ from manifest information in that they provide information relevant to the commercial transaction, including buyer, seller, advanced value, and other information that may not be available to the carrier. Manifest information focuses on where a shipment is picked up, where it is delivered to, and quantity and weight information.