U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a document intended to provide guidance on CBP processes during ACE system interruptions and to help trade partners develop their own downtime policies and procedures. CBP officials have also said they are taking steps to limit such downtime.

CBP states that this document reflects the ACE downtime policy distributed to the field in September 2017, which is based on security, enforcement, and facilitation, in order of importance. It is intended to provide as much uniformity as possible yet still allow sufficient flexibility for ports to adjust and adopt their own procedures suited to local risk factors, business models, infrastructure, and other factors if necessary.

The guidance is a living document that will be revised as necessary to adapt to changing circumstances. It outlines the documents required for manual clearance of entry, the procedures for processing cargo (including specific procedures for truck, rail, vessel, air, and air express shipments), and the responsibilities of CBP and traders during downtime.

While this guidance reflects CBP’s expectation that ACE will experience periods when it is unavailable to users, officials have said the agency is also working to minimize the frequency and impacts of such occurrences. Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said at the East Coast Trade Symposium that CBP is working to make ACE more “bulletproof” by improving its redundancy and resiliency. Kathryn Kolbe, executive assistant commissioner for enterprise services, added that CBP is working to implement a cloud-based disaster recovery system and developing software to allow automated processing when the ACE portal goes down.

Kolbe said CBP is also planning to improve the ACE dashboard to provide better and more real-time information on system status. A working group of the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee reported Feb. 28 that CBP has assigned a development team to begin working on dashboard enhancements the group recommended in November 2017 and that those enhancements will be implemented throughout 2018.

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