AMS Celebrates 25 Years

Last month marked the 25th anniversary since the introduction of the Automated Manifest System (AMS). This accomplishment can only be attributed to the combined efforts of U.S. Customs, the shipping industry, and Customs Electronic Systems Action Council (CESAC).

CESAC was formed in 1989 shortly after the initial release of SEA AMS as a forum for members of the shipping industry to voice their opinions about the new AMS system to Customs. Since then CESAC has been partnering with the government and providing input and feedback to Customs, helping keep the system up to date and relevant to the needs of the industry. The system was enhanced as electronic cargo control allowed many labor intensive activities, such as truck deliveries and preparing moves were made simpler with electronic cargo status advice to carriers, port authorities, and terminal operators up to five days before actual conveyance arrival.

After major carriers led the way in the use of Sea AMS, the application saw increased participation across the industry. CESAC enrollment increased to include NVOs, terminal operators, and software providers, including Vilden Associates to provide input. This led to more features in AMS, including electronic arrival of in-bond movements and electronic download of manifests to port authorities and terminal operators.

 U.S. Customs developed and implemented Rail AMS in 1995, which improved the network linkage between ocean and rail carriers. After September 11th, AMS evolved into a cargo security solution. Our own Rajiv Garg, quoted in the latest issue of American Shipper Magazine, states that CESAC was a major force that helped transition AMS from just operations activity, to a security tool. CESAC’s ocean carriers and NVOs, along with other industry groups worked with Customs on technical details to help facilitate this change in focus without disrupting legitimate trade.

Today, millions of bills of lading, containers, and data records are processed through the Sea AMS system. However there are still changes on the horizon. Recently, CBP stated that in early 2012, they will announce the decommissioning of the Automated Manifest System for sea and rail shipments, which would be the first major step in the move from the Automated Commercial System (ACS) to Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). This move to ACE is currently anticipated for July 2012, or six months after the announcement.

This does not mean AMS will be discontinued, as the new ACE has will include AMS. ACE will incorporate AMS functions, and bring improved automation between CBP and other government agencies. Currently CESAC is involved in the development of an automated Customs export system for air, ocean and rail, which is expected to be launched late 2012.