A coalition of associations representing air freight forwarding companies is calling on the federal government to solicit input from small and medium sized forwarders before expanding the Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) program.
The program, which analyzes advance data on inbound air shipments to the U.S. to assess risk, is currently in pilot phase, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has signaled that they intend to expand it to apply to all inbound air cargo via a rulemaking.
The Airforwarders Association (AfA), the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) and the Express Delivery and Logistics Association (XLA) have jointly sent letters to CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) noting their support of the concept of the ACAS program’s risk-based analysis at the shipment level, but saying “we are concerned about certain issues which we feel have not yet been fully resolved within the ACAS pilot.” In addition to detailing issues regarding potential negative impacts on small and medium sized air forwarding businesses, the letters included requests to meet with both agencies and representatives from air carriers in June to discuss the concerns and try to resolve them.
The four associations, representing companies that do not own planes but instead arrange for the shipment of goods by air, are concerned that the ACAS pilot program has involved only a handful of forwarders, mostly larger operations that already have integrated supply chains and an overseas infrastructure. Their letters emphasized that the pilot has not included smaller forwarding companies “that rely on an extensive network of independent agents at overseas airports” and for whom “the size and scope of their technology infrastructure … varies widely.” Accordingly, the groups called for more work to be done to determine how the ACAS program will be applied to small and medium sized forwarders before they are brought under its requirements.
In addition, “any ACAS rule should maintain the level playing field for all filers. No requirement should create an unfair competitive business advantage for one filer over another,” the letters said.
The groups pointed to other issues of concern, including that ACAS may not take into account variances among U.S. trading partners in the applicability and procedures of their own screening programs, most notably that not all countries of origination allow forwarders to screen cargo. On this issue, the letter said that it is important for ACAS “to clarify what the process and verification procedures will be when an ACAS dual-filing is made at a foreign location, first by the forwarder and then by the carrier.”
Another key area of concern, pertinent to both TSA and CBP, has to do with the “targeting rule sets” for determining when additional high risk screening will be performed. Specifically, the letter requests that ACAS utilize only those risk analysis formulas that have been tested in the pilot.
The TSA letter further outlines concerns about operational procedures for forwarders’ screening of targeted shipments into the U.S., which have also not yet been fully tested. It also raises questions about potential impact for screening of U.S. export shipments when other countries’ advance data programs take effect.