CBP COVID-19 Trade Update Call for March 19
On March 19, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hosted a conference call with the Trade to discuss the current status of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and its effect on Cargo and Port Operations.
CBP began by stating that previous proclamations regarding the restriction of travelers do not include restrictions on cargo and that there should be no impact on cargo from regions restricted by said proclamations. This also applies to the recent agreement made between the Canadian and U.S. government to close the Northern Border to non-essential travel. Cargo is considered essential and therefore should not be subjected to additional screenings or potential slowdowns. A Federal Register notice is scheduled to be published on Tuesday that will define essential travel. This will outline those who cross the border for essential reasons, such as medical personnel, humanitarian aid, critical infrastructure, etc. At the border, discretion is being given to Officers for certain edge cases.
As for the state of border crossings, passenger land border traffic is down significantly. In Buffalo and Detroit, traffic is down 70% and 65% respectively. At this time, commercial traffic has remained steady but CBP does anticipate a drop in Detroit and Laredo. CBP is not expecting reductions in staffing at the Northern Border, though as many locations are operating under extended hours or are 24/7, it may be appropriate to reduce to core hours to utilize resources more strategically.
Just as the Northern Border has been closed to non-essential travel, a formal essential-only announcement should be coming soon for the Southern Border. Just like the Northern Border closing, there will be no restrictions on cargo or expected personnel reductions.*
*Update: On March 20, President Trump announced that the U.S. and Mexico will be suspending nonessential travel along the Southern Border. This move echoes the March 18 decision to close the Northern Border between the U.S. and Canada to all but essential workers.
On the call, CBP stated that they have chosen to close their Global NEXUS Enrollment Centers as a way to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The enrollment upon arrival is still operational for those who are flying internationally.
There have been no operational changes at Ports of Entry. CBP has encountered an uptick of personnel testing positive for COVID-19 and is now up to about 30 Officers who are in quarantine protocol. If a reduction of staff at ports becomes significant, ports have their own contingency plans.
The Office of Trade has been hard at work reviewing recommendations sent in by the Trade to help with the crisis. CBP thanked the NCBFAA and other associations for their submissions. One submission that was sent in by the NCBFAA, and a few other associations, related to duty drawback and a possible delay in duty payments.*
*Announced via CSMS, CBP will approve on a case by case basis additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes and fees due to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak.
CBP has confirmed that the March 20, 2020 debit authorizations for the Periodic Monthly Statements and the daily statements have been transmitted to the Department of Treasury. CBP asks that you work directly with your financial institution if you wish to prevent these funds from being withdrawn.
Requests should be directed to the Office of Trade, Trade Policy and Programs at OTentrysummary@cbp.dhs.gov.
NCBFAA has reached out to CBP and is currently seeking additional guidance for our members.