US Customs says ACE glitches over as it readies next phase

U.S. Customs and Border Protection say the glitches that riddled the initial rollout of its new electronic filing system over the past week are resolved and it is safeguarding for when the remainder of system filers are boarded.

“CBP regrets that these system slowdowns caused issues for some ACE users. These issues have been resolved,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Last Thursday marked the first of two major deadlines for U.S. importers, exporters and their partner government agencies to begin filing using Customs’ ‘single window’ portal, which is known as the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE. Users said they experienced few problems the first day of the rollout of the program, now three years behind schedule, twice-delayed and more than $1 billion over budget. That all changed by Friday.

Last Friday, the initiative meant to streamline border processing and allow shippers to easily share trade documents with government agencies, saving time and money, was fraught with slow load times, network errors, system-wide crashes and long wait times for the Customs’ help desk.

The drama unfolding online continued into the next week before Customs announced last Tuesday morning that the glitches had been addressed and settled in their entirety.

Though the agency did not go into detail, it did say that the sheer number of users’ on boarded Thursday was largely to blame.

That sudden increase in filers, Customs said, ‘produced processing slowdowns that caused users to experience issues with filings in ACE and ACE/AESDirect” — the latter the U.S. Census Bureau’s system for filing shipper’s export declaration information.

Some users who spoke on the development reported far fewer problems with the ACE portal other than typical slow load times — something that long time users said have been present since the ACE portal was first launched.

“I know it’s normally slow during the day and I think we are going to just continue to see that,” Vice president of operations at freight forwarder and customs broker Scarborough International, Adam Hill said.

Hill said his Missouri-based firm has been working with ACE since 2009.

“If you mess around inside the ACE portal and do anything business-wise during normal business hours, it tends to slow down and it’s been that way for a long time,” he said Tuesday.

The addition of what Hill estimated as a 50 to 100 percent increase in the number of people transmitting data via ACE, unsurprisingly, slowed the system even more.

The lion’s share of the complaints, such as those shared in a letter to Customs from the American Association of Exporters and Importers were focused on the ACE portal and not the backend of the program or the physical movement of goods, Hill said. “And it’s an important distinction to be made.”

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