U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say that while the agency gets more attention for its trade enforcement efforts it is taking a number of steps to facilitate trade at U.S. borders as well. Following are some of the current and planned initiatives in this area.
Unified Cargo Processing. Under UCP, U.S. and Mexican customs officials conduct joint inspections of cargo inside the importing country. Facilities and processes are shared and the law of the host country prevails. At each site the pilot is first rolled out to highly compliant companies and then gradually expanded. In addition, each site is testing UCP with respect to specific categories of goods.
Officials say UCP has already achieved significant reductions in wait times and yielded substantial savings for traders. The pilot is also changing the way enforcement agencies operate and how companies do business, officials say, such as by shifting shipping times.
UCP is currently being tested at approximately a dozen locations in both the U.S. and Mexico. Many of these are truck processing facilities along the border, but some airports and rail facilities are involved as well. The pilot was also recently expanded to rail operations at the port of Champlain, N.Y., along the U.S.-Canada border.
Moving forward, officials say they plan to extend UCP to additional locations as well as different types of locations, such as express delivery facilities. However, sufficient infrastructure will be needed to allow the program to work properly, which could pose a challenge at some sites. In the future, new border facilities will be designed with evolving technology and joint inspections in mind.
AQUA Lane. CBP has deployed to all U.S. seaports the Advanced Qualified Unlading Approval program, which allows CTPAT-validated ocean carriers that are also compliant with importer security filing and certain agriculture requirements to unlade goods immediately upon arrival in port. All containers must be delivered directly to a CTPAT terminal operator. CBP officials say this program has saved carriers hundreds of millions of dollars as they can better predict unlading times for labor cost purposes and realize lower costs for fuel, dockage fees, etc.
Non-Intrusive Inspection. CBP has hundreds of large-scale NII systems deployed to and in between U.S. ports of entry. These systems enable CBP officers to examine cargo conveyances such as sea containers, commercial trucks, and rail cars for the presence of contraband without physically opening or unloading them.
CBP also scans all arriving conveyances and containers with radiation detection equipment, which includes radiation portal monitors, radiation isotope identification devices, and personal radiation detectors. Utilizing RPMs, CBP is able to scan approximately 100 per cent of all mail and express consignment mail/parcels, approximately 100 percent of all truck cargo, 100 percent of personally-owned vehicles arriving from Canada and Mexico, and approximately 99 percent of all arriving sea-borne containerized cargo for the presence of radiological and nuclear materials.
Officials say CBP has recently recalibrated its RPMs, which has decreased the number of false positive readings and the associated delays. CBP is also preparing to pilot test at two southwest border locations a variable intensity scanner that will eliminate the need for drivers to exit their trucks, which should allow CBP to process about ten times as many trucks per hour.
Vessel Clearance. According to CBP officials, seven or eight forms are currently required to clear an inbound cargo vessel, a manual process than can take up to two hours. Although this process does not affect the cargo itself, it can delay cargo delivery times. CBP began working to automate this process in 2015 and has now completed a majority of the work, officials said, with plans to run pilot test at several locations sometime this year. CBP is also in the process of revamping its vessel-related regulations to eliminate duplicative requirements.