US CUSTOMS and Border Protection (CBP) appear to be breaking out the champagne over an "historic milestone" in deploying the "last of the major scheduled core trade processing capabilities in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)".
This celebretory tone comes after a raft of criticisms that the ACE auto customs clearance system is US$1 billion over budget and doesn't work.
ACE was designed to streamline data flow to US Customs, but is filled with flaws after three years, says the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA).
It has called for remedial action, as its members process 97 per cent of all data entries for imports to the US, reports London's Loadstar.
But US Customs insists ACE is doing the job of streamlining the import/export process into a "single window" that allows businesses to electronically transmit the data required by the US Government to import or export cargo.
"More than 5.3 million lines of code were developed in order to automate all phases of cargo processing - pre-arrival, arrival, post release, exports, and partner government agency (PGA) integration - into ACE," said the US Customs press release.
Said Acting Customs Commissioner Kevin McAleenan: "This deployment of ACE is a significant achievement for CBP, the trade community and PGAs who have worked tirelessly to implement the "single window" for over 15 years.
"It has been one of the most complex IT projects the federal government has ever undertaken and required strong partnerships and collaboration across government and industry," he said.
But according to the NCBFAA paper, ACE is not capable of providing a stable release date for border clearances. There are problems with remote location filing, currency conversion for duties and value declaration as well as insufficient automation of the invoice interface.
On the post-clearance side, the paper points to "ongoing and often uncommunicated" changes in the reconciliation function and the removal of protest filings from CBP's Automated Broker Interface.
Communication is also an issue with the messages that ACE sends out. The NCBFAA is calling for a complete list of ACE messages and their meanings.
The NCBFAA described the messaging system as "duplicative, inconsistent and prone to incorrect interpretation by CBP and stakeholders".
US Airforwarders Association executive director Brandon Fried said the NCBFAA's "white paper was an eye opener", adding that the flow of messages about delays and system down times emanating from ACE suggests that the platform is far from stable.