MONTREAL, Que. – A high-tech Montreal company wants to do for the trucking industry what it has already achieved for air and sea shippers.
“We’re the biggest provider of Automated Manifest Systems (AMS) for air cargo in the U.S. and now we hope to do as well in trucking too,” David Berger, executive vice-president of Oceanwide Inc., told Truck News.
Oceanwide is recognized as a leader of AMS in the development of linking carriers and importers to the office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Berger pointed out more than 500 customs brokers, 200 importers, dozens of airlines and ocean carriers now use Oceanwide on a daily basis to streamline regulatory compliance with flexible, cost-effective solutions.
Ten years ago, it became the first company to provide an air AMS application and is now the first software firm actively and successfully testing third party truck AMS software with U.S. Customs.
Under the 2002 Trade Act, all trucks crossing into the U.S. will eventually need to submit advance manifest information through the CBP’s truck e-manifest service, known as the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).
“It’s in a test period now then will eventually become compulsory,” Berger said, noting 130,000 trucking companies cross into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. “A truck crosses from Canada into the U.S. every five seconds.”
According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, truck activity across the Canada-U.S. border last year increased to 13.4 million two-way trips from 13.2 million in 2003.
The CTA states 62 per cent of that Canada-U.S. trade – valued at $556 billion in 2004 – is shipped by trucks, making it the dominant mode for exports (53 per cent) and imports (78 per cent).
The busy Lacolle, Que.-Champlain, N.Y. border crossing is one of the six along both countries across which 76 per cent of the trade value is carried by trucks.
The first land border port was transitioned to ACE in Blaine, Wash., in December 2004 when an electronic manifest was introduced for trucks. Then the CBP this past July created a portal support center to address questions regarding the ACE border-release system.
At the same time the ACE was introduced at the end of last year, Oceanwide launched a new Internet web portal for trucking companies at www.truckingmanifest.com that gives free access to a Facilities Information and Resource Management System (FIRMS) code lookup, an important piece of information required when reporting to customs that can be difficult to locate.
“In developing our solution for the approaching truck AMS requirement, we wanted to make sure that it would offer more than just manifest submission,” Oceanwide president and chief executive Mitchell Wasserman explained. “We were consulting with trucking companies to add Web-based management tools for cross-border shipping and several mentioned the idea of a FIRMS code lookup.”
Truck is the final transport mode to be implemented after ocean, air and rail. Like those three others, truck carriers will have to submit electronic manifest information to CBP one hour before any shipment arrives at a border crossing.
Wasserman stressed that trucking firms who set up with the new system first will have a marked advantage on their competition.
Montreal-based mid-size trucking firm Maisliner Inc. got an early jump on adapting to the soon-to-be imposed manifest system.
“We will be one of the first carriers in Quebec (to switch over),” Maisliner president Jonathan “J.J.” Maislin said. “We no longer rely on brokers, we’re talking directly to customs.”
The tighter security requirements “are forcing carriers to become systematic,” he added. “It’s also giving carriers control of their own destiny with customs.”
For the time being, Maisliner is going directly through the ACE rather than use a go-between like Oceanwide.
“It allows us to give customs information that makes it easier for both sides,” said Maislin, who is in charge of the ACE program at Maisliner and serves as a consultant to other firms and customers.
He acknowledged that some smaller carriers may not have the cash or Internet technology resources to handle ACE.
As a result, Maislin suggested the larger trucking companies with IT departments in place to handle the new system will be the first to convert.
Meanwhile, U.S. customs is encouraging participation in ACE saying it not only provides companies with tangible benefits like reduced processing times at ports, but that is also supports the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s dual mission to facilitate legitimate trade and secure the nations’ borders.
Besides Oceanwide, CrimsonLogic (North America) Inc. in Richmond Hill, Ont., and Ottawa’s ViaSafe Inc. have been approved by CBP to offer ACE systems.
Oceanwide, one of Canada’s 10 fastest-growing enterprises, capitalizes on IT to develop business-management software.
It offers online cargo insurance, warehouse management, customs connectivity and the web-based AMS.