US Customs chief: single window is still agency’s top priority

The number one commercial issue for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowkse said, remains the “single window.” He was speaking at the American Association of Exporters and Importers Annual Conference.

The single electronic portal, often referred to as the “single window,” will allow brokers and shippers to transmit necessary documents electronically in minutes, instead of days, and reduce the need to file duplicative paperwork, saving shippers and brokers’ time and money.

In order to establish that single portal, however, Customs must meet a series of deadlines as for the roll-out of its computer system, known as the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE.

Kerlikowkse said he recognizes that the next six months will be somewhat trying for the trade community but assured that he has been working with the 46 other government agencies involved in clearing shipments at the border.

“We’re working with those people to make sure it will do what it was built to do,” Kerlikowkse said, “which is streamlining the process for American business.”

While some, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, are set to begin the pilot later this year, others, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have a less definite schedule, said Marianne Rowden, AAEI President and CEO.

“The agencies are really all over the place in terms of where they’re at. There are various stages because they look at risk differently,” Rowden said.

Kerlikowkse said he recognizes this and has encouraged an era of transparency and open communication at the agency that he has overseen for little over a year.

“There’s going to be a great return on investment in this technology; enabling federal agencies to able to review all at one time, to respond to cargo movement, reducing cost for both importers and the government.”

While the U.S. trade community and Customs move forward with ACE, the customs services and trade communities in other countries, including many top U.S. trade partners, are developing their own “single window” portals. The aim is that, eventually, the export documentation of one country will become the import documentation in the receiving country.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.