Customs inspectors get Web access to trade data

Customs inspectors get Web access to trade data

A $7 million International Trade Data System pilot soon will streamline paperwork for about 3,000 trucks per day that cross the U.S. border in Buffalo, N.Y.

The system eventually will interface with all 300 U.S. ports of entry at an estimated cost of as much as $200 million, said Woody Hall, assistant commissioner for the Customs Service's Office of Information and Technology.

In addition to processing broker manifests electronically, Hall said, the system will handle electronic payment of fees.

Customs is working with consultants Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., on the effort to develop a Web site for access from land, air, rail and seaport Customs facilities, Hall said.

The project is part of a joint effort by Customs and the Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.


The inspectors can clear cargo and drivers before arrival at the border by examining documents online.
'This data system will improve truck safety and traffic flow, help to safeguard the environment and lower the cost of inventories in transit,' said Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater.
The agreement for the pilot was approved by the board of the International Trade Data System, a component of the International Trade Commission in Washington.

'This marks an important milestone in the development of the ITDS to provide a means for streamlining import and export processes for carriers, shippers and traders as well as for the government,' said Eugene A. Rosengarden, chairman of ITDS.

Also involved in the project are the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and customs brokers. Besides Buffalo, two satellite ports at Peace Bridge, Ontario, and Lewiston, N.Y., will participate in the pilot.

Internet filing

ITDS officials said the data sharing system makes possible Internet filing of shipping manifests by brokers, traders and motor carriers. Customs inspectors can quickly review compliance by trucking companies, but that does not preclude physical inspection of truck cargo if they suspect violations.

The inspectors can clear cargo and drivers before arrival at the border after examining the documents online. Previously, they had to review paperwork handed to them by drivers or delivered in person by customs brokers.

ITDS will forward the clearance status messages to customs agencies and brokers. Customs agents can also access the system to get timely international shipping data.

More information about the Buffalo pilot appears at www.itds.treas.gov.

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