On today's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trade update call, CBP announced their upcoming trade collaboration meetings for IPR, blockchain and in-bond will need to be postponed to a later date. As for the upcoming CESAC meeting, it cannot be supported from CBP's side so will probably be rescheduled. The trade update calls are still scheduled for next week and CBP is hopeful that the shutdown will be over and those calls can go on as planned. If the shutdown continues, CBP will be unable to support any upcoming calls.
CBP acknowledged yesterday's unplanned ACE outage, stating that close to 4:00 p.m. ET, they noticed the ACE system was struggling with database related issues causing hang-ups in the system. Their technicians shut down the inbound transactions to stop them from erroring out and successfully switched over to the back-up database. By 6:15 p.m. ET, the technicians switched back to the main database after confirming everything was operational. Operations were back to normal by 7:00 p.m. ET and the system was processing current. AES direct was also down as a result of it being connected to the ACE portal. CBP noted that AES was down the day before and that if users experience additional problems, they should open a trouble ticket with CBP online, and not Census, as CBP is the mechanical/technical support for AES. CBP says that they have learned that the back-up system is a necessity after the past few years of outages. The back-up is a mirror image (disaster recovery) of the database that is constantly kept up to date.
The next order of business was the Harmonized Tariff Schedule's (HTS) new Units of Measurement (UOM.) The problem that users have been experiencing is unique to the shutdown, as errors would have been worked out between the International Trade Commission (ITC) and CBP if they were both operating at full capacity and at normal business hours. As it stands, all ITC employees have been furloughed and CBP's HTS employees are also on furlough. CBP's advice is to submit entries using "logic." For example, the UOM for grams was changed from "g" to "gm." There are possibly about 300 of those changes. CBP says that they will not be issuing a universal list of UOM changes as they cannot support that at this time and users should seek out association lists in the meantime.* CBP will continue to will work through it until they are up and running.
[*As a side note, the NCBFAA has an unofficial and incomplete collection of the new UOM here and here. Please note that we have done our best to double check any and all of our changes and will keep our members apprised of any changes.]
In regard to the CBMA conference call that was scheduled for Thursday, January 10, CBP says they will have to reschedule. A second question was asked about formal guidance for CBMA. Guidance was supposed to be forthcoming but, for now, everyone should still be following 2018 guidance.
CBP reiterated that, while ACH was still taking applications and payments, all refunds, including ACH refunds, have been suspended. As the issuing of refunds is a non-accepted function, all employees who support the refund process at the Treasury are not working. CBP also stated that there will be no regulatory audits during the shutdown. When the lapse of appropriations ends, regulatory audits will be rescheduled. Until then, if you have timelines for a request for documents and submissions, you should continue to adhere to those guidelines.
A question was raised regarding whether or not the Newark and NY Ports were operating on limited hours, and CBP stated that they will monitor the issue and follow-up by sending an email for distribution.
As for the scheduled in-bond call tomorrow, and for the future ACAS bi-weekly conference calls, CBP says that they will let participants know if the call will occur, either at the close of business the night before or on the morning of. For ACAS, the will send out separate information at a later time. As for anything that has been postponed, CBP will not be able to set the dates until after the shutdown ends.
CBP reiterated that the email@example.com inbox is reserved for high-level policy questions and should not be used as a substitute for ABI client representative. All ABI client representative functions are on hiatus until the shut down ends. For stuck shipments, users should reach out to the CBP ACE help desk. For cargo issues, you should speak with the port.
In regard to the Section 301 tariffs and USTR exclusion requests, CBP state that none of the work is continuing at this time. As for the adjudication on the petitions themselves, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is still functional, but the technical work that is handled by CBP is not. CBP cannot load the approved exclusions into ACE. No additional product approvals will take place during the shutdown. As a note, USTR will begin furloughs at the close of business on January 11.
At the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all operations (prior notice, entry sampling, etc..) are continuing. As of now, there is no plan to change their covering of the ports. If this changes, the FDA will let everyone know. Until then everyone should continue to use their regular contacts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently shut down, but CBP has a protocol for critical cargo release. For difficult release issues, you should go to CBP who will be able to talk to the port of entry and interface with EPA's limited staff.
National account managers are furloughed, so all scheduled calls with them are postponed.
The quota desk is still staffed and receiving calls. A dedicated email box has also been set up for any quota issues that may arise.The next CBP call is scheduled for next Monday, January 14. The NCBFAA will continue to take part in these trade calls and will update our members as situations develop.