Customs & Border Protection (CBP), ACE eManifest, and the Automated Commercial Environment are very well-developed organizations and systems. But regardless of how well designed an organization or system is, there will come a time when you will experience some downtime. In the CBP system with so many dependencies, there can be a lot of impact and risk. For instance, for an action to be completed in the system, you will need workflow processing or communications between systems and if anything goes wrong, everything will grind to a halt. The CBP and the many stakeholders in the trade have worked hard to develop, set up and maintain systems that are critical to keeping the operations of private enterprises and US commerce working smoothly. But with so much automation of commerce, the operational and economic impact of downtime could be severe. Because of this, the CBP is always working to ensuring that health and safety, enforcement, security and legal compliance are always upheld even while there is CBP downtime.

What is a CBP Downtime?

CBP downtime refers to any instance of the CBP system being inaccessible to either external users, internal users or both, which stops or slows down the electronic processing of statements, manifests, cargo releases and entry summaries. Downtime could include the following aspects that interfere with processing:

  1. The CBP cannot receive or/and process electronic messages transmitted by stakeholders in the trade network. The most obvious indicator of this is when the system no longer sends response messages.
  2. The web interface is no longer available to stakeholders. This makes the web portal unavailable to both trade stakeholders and other CBP users, as access is denied for normal processing activities. This is particularly critical for AES Direct users and truck ACE eManifest filers.

CBP Procedures for Trucking Companies When Primary or Secondary Processing is Unavailable

  1. Land border truck ports will implement downtime procedures once they get the notification or when they experience any slowdown in the ACE system that results in a timeout or unavailability of the ACE portal or EDI. They will then locally notify all CBP users affected to use the port ACE Downtime procedures.
  2. The driver is expected to bring to the primary booth the ACE eManifest coversheet** (typically includes documents such as Bill of Lading, commercial invoice, Shipment control number (SCN), Entry number, and Trip Number). It is recommended that the trip number be barcoded.
  3. Drivers arriving at the primary processing booth without verifiable information will have to go through the secondary processing area where they have to get the required information/documentation before they are released.
  4. CBP will typically check that the cargo paperwork (includes Prior Notice (for FDA shipments), Bill of Lading, Invoice, and ACE eManifest cover sheet among others) are presented by drivers during the downtime. They will also annotate the manifest to show that the shipment was cleared during system downtime procedures.
  5. Once the ACE system is back online, ACE will process all electronic manifests. For any shipments that were processed manually will be entered into the ACE system once it is back online. This will include entering the truck information on the ACE Primary screen and following the normal electronic procedures for clearance of ACE eManifest trips.
  6. Any errors or holds discovered will be reported to the shift supervisors who will make the decision of redelivery if deemed necessary.

**Note: The ACE cover sheet is typically used as best practice. Nonetheless, CBP Form 7533 can also be used**

CBP Procedures for Trucking Companies When ACE Portal is Working but One or More ACE Back-end Processes are Down

  1. The CBP will make sure that cargo paperwork that includes Prior Notice, Bill of Lading, Commerical Invoice, and ACE eManifest cover sheet are presented by drivers during system downtimes. They will also indicate by annotating the eManifest to show that the shipment was processed during the ACE system downtime.
  2. Trips that have been queried in ACE will be left open and the CBP officer will have the option of “request entry docs” through the open action in the inbox. Once the ACE system is back online, it will perform entry matching and ACE will close the “request entry docs” action. Meanwhile, a new action that is the “review verify” will appear prompting the closing of the CBP downtime.
  3. If the ACE trip has been transmitted but is unavailable, it will be treated as portal downtime and follow the procedures set out earlier. The best practice is not to send trips multiple times given that once the ACE service is back up, CBP will process the trips electronically.
  4. Once the ACE system is back up, the officers will process all electronic manifests that were collected at primary and process them through secondary. This will include entering the license plate in the Primary screen on ACE and then following the set procedures for electronic clearance of ACE trips.
  5. Any errors or holds discovered will be reported to the shift supervisors who will make the decision of redelivery if deemed necessary.

Documents Required for CBP Downtime Procedures

During downtimes, trucking companies will have to provide the following documentation to CBP officers for manual clearance. While a trucking company does not need to provide all these documents for every shipment, each document provided to the CBP officials will make the clearance process during downtime easier.

The proper documents required for clearance and risk assessment by the CBP include:

  1. Appropriate PGA Documentation – Any information or documentation required by partner government agencies according to the regulations.
  2. Bills of Lading – The CBP may need to have these for risk assessment purposes
  3. Cargo Release Documentation – In place of the CBP Form 7501 or the 3461, importers may provide CBP with the entry information electronically sent to the CBP using ABI.
  4. Carrier in-bond Documentation – In place of the 7512, automated filers could furnish the CBP officials with the carrier in-bond document that includes origin and destination ports, bonded party information, an in-bond number and other information from the 7512.
  5. CBP Form 1302 – Cargo Declaration
  6. CBP Form 301 (or equivalent) – Truckers need this as proof of a valid bond for the importer.
  7. CBP Form 7502 or 3461 – Entry Summary documentation, Immediate Delivery or Entry. You do not need these to file electronically but the CBP may need the information to facilitate clearance.
  8. CBP Form 7512 – In-bond document
  9. CBP Form 7533 – Inward Cargo Manifest
  10. Downtime Request Document – A request from any stakeholder identifying shipments that need clearance when the ACE systems are experiencing downtime. May include FTZ Admissions, Warehouse entries, Permits to Transfer, in bond moves, releases/entry and any other movement of shipments.
  11. Invoice – Could be in the form of either proforma invoices or original commercial invoices.
  12. Packing Lists – Shipper provided a list of contents
  13. Plain Paper Cargo Declaration – Documented created by carriers that include information such as consignees, shippers, descriptions and data, and BOL/AWB among others.
  14. Truck Manifest Cover Sheet – Document created by carriers that has information such as Driver information, BOL number and trip number among others.

*Note: Truckers may be required to provide additional documents for clearance and security purposes during downtimes*

Communication with Trucking Companies during CBP Downtime

The CBP will provide notifications to trucking companies through a CSMS message when it finds any issues with the national CBP ACE system. The message may include:

  1. Subsystems affected
  2. Operational impact
  3. Projected time to resolution
  4. Whether the downtime requires entry summary or cargo downtime procedures

CBP ports are expected to inform stakeholders that local downtime procedures have been implemented and provide guidance on the specific event. The notifications should also come with documentation requirements, points of contact, and reminders of local procedures. Truckers will also get notifications when operating procedures are back online.

Many ports use local email networks to communicate with truckers, providing guidance and disseminating information. They also use contact information to provide guidance and answer questions in the instance of emergencies and downtime.

CBP will notify self-programmers and software vendors of any system issues so that they can work closely with truckers during the system downtime.

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