BY R. Bruce Striegler

Touted as an initiative to change the way commercial goods entering Canada are processed, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) established eManifest in October 2010. Despite delays and postponements, eManifest is now operational for several sectors. Commercial goods carriers into Canada must now provide CBSA with cargo and conveyance information through an electronic data system, a minimum of one hour before arriving at the border.

The records are processed through an existing electronic data interchange (EDI) on the dedicated eManifest portal. Already implemented for the motor carrier industry, as of May 2012 eManifest has also become applicable to rail carriers. Freight forwarders will be next, transmitting house bills or supplementary cargo data by March 2013 followed by importers who will need to begin submitting advance trade data by July 2014.

The program’s goal is to create a nearly paperless process which starts well before goods reach the border, allowing low-risk shipments to be identified prior to arrival and processed more efficiently. The eManifest portal was developed primarily for small- to medium-sized businesses to help them comply with eManifest requirements, and ease their transition from paper reporting to pre-arrival electronic data transmission. The portal also allows CBSA’s trade partners to store data, query, and verify the status of their shipments online.

Deployment of the electronic systems and portal was completed by 2011, and CBSA recently announced an informed compliance period for motor carriers beginning in November 2012 and in effect until May 2013 when enabling legislation and regulations will be in place. The agency notes that carriers will not be denied entry of merchandise carried during this six-month period or subject to penalties for reasons associated with eManifest non-compliance. CBSA also reports that as of September 2012, more than 1,600 clients were ready to transmit or are actually transmitting advance highway cargo and conveyance data and as of the first of October more than 3,000 clients had established, or were in the process of establishing an eManifest portal business account.

Industry gets on-board

Greg Kolesniak, Director of Policy for the British Columbia Trucking Association says, “There’s a lot of potential for the eManifest to improve the efficiency of cross-border goods movements, primarily by allowing CBSA to pre-screen conveyances and cargo before they actually arrive at the border, so the risk assessment is done before the truck shows up.” The system will allow border agents to identify shipments that may require further examination but allow low-risk, legitimate goods to cross more efficiently.

Mr. Kolesniak says that once the eManifest program is fully rolled-out and everybody has become accustomed to it, there should be an overall benefit to trade and the trucking industry. He says that members of the B.C. Association and the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the national umbrella organization, are generally supportive of eManifest.

The program will improve two-way communication between CBSA and carriers or shippers. Existing trusted trader programs such as the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program, the Customs Self Assessment (CSA) program, and the Commercial Driver Registration Program (CDRP) will continue to exist, and eManifest and will complement those programs.

Greg Kolesniak notes that carriers are not unaware of the system and its benefits, as the U.S. has had an equivalent arrangement in place for some years. “Implementation of the program so far is going pretty much as we expected. The vast majority of carriers who cross the border on a regular basis have been testing eManifest for quite some time. Uptake among some of the smaller companies that perhaps only cross the border four or five times could be higher, but with CBSA’s recent announcement of the informed compliance period, we should see those numbers rise over the next few months.” CBSA is offering comprehensive online resources and support for users coming on-stream during the final implementation stages.