U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently launched at the ports of New Orleans, Oakland, Baltimore and Port Everglades, Fla., a pilot test of a program being billed as a fast lane for cargo containers.
The Advanced Qualified Unlading Approval program will allow C-TPAT qualified ocean carriers (that are also compliant with importer security filing requirements) and terminal operators to apply for AQUA a minimum of 24 hours prior to estimated arrival. CBP will respond at least 12 hours out, which a press release from Port Everglades states amounts to allowing vessel cargoes to be pre-cleared by CBP 12 hours prior to estimated arrival instead of requiring them to wait for a CBP officer to board and clear the ship. Carriers will then have the ability to immediately unlade merchandise upon arrival. However, the crew must remain with the vessel until formal CBP processing is done, and all containers must be delivered to a C-TPAT member terminal operator.
CBP anticipates that AQUA will allow carriers to achieve quicker vessel turnaround times in port, which will also benefit importers through faster container movements. Carriers should also be able to better predict unlading times for labor cost purposes and lower their costs for fuel, dockage fees, etc. CBP, in turn, will be able to better allocate resources and manpower as necessary.
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg can assist those interested in participating in the AQUA pilot with the necessary C-TPAT certifications. For more information, please contact Lenny Feldman at (305) 894-1011.