Government Shutdown Guidance
The NCBFAA will continue to update the information below as new information becomes available. These listings are current as of January 9th, but not all information has been updated due to many of our agency contacts being furloughed.
With a Federal government shutdown looming on the horizon, the NCBFAA has reached out to representatives of Partner Government Agencies (PGA) for information regarding the arrangements they have in place for the processing of Import and Export cargo. Please see below for agency guidance and procedure.
On the January 9th U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trade update call, CBP announced their upcoming trade collaboration meetings for IPR, blockchain and in-bond will need to be postponed to a later date. As for the upcoming CESAC meeting, it cannot be supported from CBP's side so will probably be rescheduled. The trade update calls are still scheduled for next week and CBP is hopeful that the shutdown will be over and those calls can go on as planned. If the shutdown continues, CBP will be unable to support any upcoming calls.
CBP acknowledged yesterday's unplanned ACE outage, stating that close to 4:00 p.m. ET, they noticed the ACE system was struggling with database related issues causing hang-ups in the system. Their technicians shut down the inbound transactions to stop them from erroring out and successfully switched over to the back-up database. By 6:15 p.m. ET, the technicians switched back to the main database after confirming everything was operational. Operations were back to normal by 7:00 p.m. ET and the system was processing current. AES direct was also down as a result of it being connected to the ACE portal. CBP noted that AES was down the day before and that if users experience additional problems, they should open a trouble ticket with CBP online, and not Census, as CBP is the mechanical/technical support for AES. CBP says that they have learned that the back-up system is a necessity after the past few years of outages. The back-up is a mirror image (disaster recovery) of the database that is constantly kept up to date.
The next order of business was the Harmonized Tariff Schedule's (HTS) new Units of Measurement (UOM.) The problem that users have been experiencing is unique to the shutdown, as errors would have been worked out between the International Trade Commission (ITC) and CBP if they were both operating at full capacity and at normal business hours. As it stands, all ITC employees have been furloughed and CBP's HTS employees are also on furlough. CBP's advice is to submit entries using "logic." For example, the UOM for grams was changed from "g" to "gm." There are possibly about 300 of those changes. CBP says that they will not be issuing a universal list of UOM changes as they cannot support that at this time and users should seek out association lists in the meantime.* CBP will continue to will work through it until they are up and running.
[*As a side note, the NCBFAA has an unofficial and incomplete collection of the new UOM here and here. Please note that we have done our best to double check any and all of our changes and will keep our members apprised of any changes.]
In regard to the CBMA conference call that was scheduled for Thursday, January 10, CBP says they will have to reschedule. A second question was asked about formal guidance for CBMA. Guidance was supposed to be forthcoming but, for now, everyone should still be following 2018 guidance.
CBP reiterated that, while ACH was still taking applications and payments, all refunds, including ACH refunds, have been suspended. As the issuing of refunds is a non-accepted function, all employees who support the refund process at the Treasury are not working. CBP also stated that there will be no regulatory audits during the shutdown. When the lapse of appropriations ends, regulatory audits will be rescheduled. Until then, if you have timelines for a request for documents and submissions, you should continue to adhere to those guidelines.
A question was raised regarding whether or not the Newark and NY Ports were operating on limited hours, and CBP stated that they will monitor the issue and follow-up by sending an email for distribution.
As for the scheduled in-bond call tomorrow, and for the future ACAS bi-weekly conference calls, CBP says that they will let participants know if the call will occur, either at the close of business the night before or on the morning of. For ACAS, the will send out separate information at a later time. As for anything that has been postponed, CBP will not be able to set the dates until after the shutdown ends.
CBP reiterated that the firstname.lastname@example.org inbox is reserved for high-level policy questions and should not be used as a substitute for ABI client representative. All ABI client representative functions are on hiatus until the shut down ends. For stuck shipments, users should reach out to the CBP ACE help desk. For cargo issues, you should speak with the port.
In regard to the Section 301 tariffs and USTR exclusion requests, CBP state that none of the work is continuing at this time. As for the adjudication on the petitions themselves, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is still functional, but the technical work that is handled by CBP is not. CBP cannot load the approved exclusions into ACE. No additional product approvals will take place during the shutdown. As a note, USTR will begin furloughs at the close of business on January 11.
At the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all operations (prior notice, entry sampling, etc..) are continuing. As of now, there is no plan to change their covering of the ports. If this changes, the FDA will let everyone know. Until then everyone should continue to use their regular contacts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently shut down, but CBP has a protocol for critical cargo release. For difficult release issues, you should go to CBP who will be able to talk to the port of entry and interface with EPA's limited staff.
National account managers are furloughed, so all scheduled calls with them are postponed.
The quota desk is still staffed and receiving calls. A dedicated email box has also been set up for any quota issues that may arise.
The next CBP call is scheduled for next Monday, January 14. The NCBFAA will continue to take part in these trade calls and will update our members as situations develop.
In the event of a shutdown, all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) port investigators would be furloughed. CPSC targeting would be suspended. Shipments that have been targeted, but not arrived for examination, would be released, unless CBP or another PGA has interest or an imminent health and safety issue has been identified. Decisions on whether to release shipments that have been detained because they failed field screening and may be violative will be made on a case by case basis.
As far as a point of contact during a shutdown, they are referring callers to their hotline at (800) 638-2772, which will direct inquiries to staff on duty.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have funding to continue border operations.
*Update (Additional Guidance - 1/10/2019): During the period of a lapse in Federal Funding, paper NOAs submitted by importers/brokers will not be handled/reviewed by EPA personnel.
The importer or the importer's agent may instead file the EPA Pesticides ACE PGA Message Set data (and upload an image of the pesticide’s on -product label through DIS) alongside entry documentation in ACE. A successful filing through the PGA Message Set will trigger a “may proceed” message to CBP via ACE.
Barring any other admission issues, CBP will release the shipment.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) import operations will remain operational: FDA Prior Notice review, entry processing, sampling/examination of high-risk shipments, and compliance activities will continue.
For any entry-related issues:
*Update (Additional Guidance - 1/14/2019): Due to the shutdown, FDA in Champlain, NY, will have limited staffing (one person;) Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Fri 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. No staff on Sunday evening but FDA in VT will cover the port remotely for 4 hrs (they aren’t specifying what time)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will have funding to continue border operations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will operate at the ports as normal during any possible shut down since the wildlife inspection program is funded using user fees and not appropriated funds. Issuance of Import/Export Licenses and Designated Port Exception Permits (DPEP) will be suspended during any shutdown as will their general email (email@example.com) and headquarters/regional office telephone services. Any permits issued by the Division of Management Authority (DMA) such as CITES, ESA, etc. would be suspended during a possible shutdown.
While they will have emergency IT available to maintain eDecs and internal systems, help desk personnel will be on furlough in the event of a shutdown. They are asking the trade to stay in touch with the wildlife inspection offices if any help desk assistance is needed for eDecs.
In the event of a government shutdown, no National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) personnel will be available to release shipments in a circumstance where such action on their part is needed. No one will be available to take calls during the shutdown.
Customs operation will continue. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) will be closed.
*Update (Additional Guidance - 1/11/2019):
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will continue to provide inspection services, including inspections for import requirements, during a Federal Government shut down. The inspection results are electronically transmitted to their Compliance Enforcement Management System (CEMS). CEMS is the system that automatically reconciles entries which pass inspection and meet 8e import requirements and returns a "May Proceed" message back to ACE should an entry meet import requirements. As with the last government shutdown, entries which electronically reconcile via CEMS will continue to do so with a "May Proceed" message back to ACE as long as transmissions of inspection certificates are submitted by inspection personnel and everything reconciles.
The Marketing Order and Agreement Division's Compliance and Enforcement Branch (CEB) staff will be lightly staffed.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will have funding to continue border operations.
The NCBFAA recognizes that members will face difficulties and challenges during a shutdown. We ask that our members track any issues that arise out of a lack of PGA availability during this time and forward them to NCBFAA Executive Vice President Megan Montgomery. Your comments are crucial in ensuring we have more robust trade coverage for any potential shutdowns in the future.
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