Registration is now open for our virtual ACE Reporting Demonstrations for Export and Import on Thursday, November 16, 2023!
Provided by Carlos R. Rodriguez – information technology specialist, National ACE CBP / PGA SCO, Readiness and Deployment Branch of the Office of Trade’s Trade Transformation Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – these sessions are offered just once per year, with the option to register for the export session only, the import session only, or both sessions together.
Check out the following Q&A for a sneak peek from Carlos himself, and click here to register today!
AIAG: What prompted the ACE Portal modernization initiative, and what specific benefits/features are being added to the new portal?
Rodriguez: Building on nearly two decades of experience with the legacy ACE portal, U.S. Customs and Border Protection recognized the need to modernize the ACE portal and migrate the existing functionality to an upgraded platform. This offers users real-time access to trade data through features such as ACE reports and electronic communication with CBP and partner government agencies. CBP has been modernizing the ACE portal over multiple phases in 2022 and 2023. Specific benefits of the modernization effort include a better user experience through the user-interface enhancements, improved system performance, and increased security.
AIAG: When was the last update to the system, and what prompted the revision? Are there new filing and reporting requirements?
Rodriguez: Since the deployment of the ACE portal, the CBP has gradually enhanced specific pieces of functionality to improve the user experience. For example, the ACE forms tool and the modernized truck manifest portal are recent enhancements that trade users access via the ACE portal. However, the ACE portal platform itself has not been enhanced since 2003. So recognizing the need to update the ACE portal platform, the current modernization effort enhances the ACE portal system performance going forward and positions the technology to best meet the needs of the trade community.
Now, while the technology enhancements are primarily a migration of existing functionality from the legacy platform to the modernized platform, the ACE portal modernization effort does coincide with the modernizations of the CBP’s customs broker regulations, and associated changes in the ACE portal functionality are reflected in the modernized platform. For more information on the broker regulation changes, we are inviting our users to visit our website on cbp.gov and click on the customs broker modernization web page. This is a page that our broker management policy team created that is dedicated to all the broker modernization changes because there were some changes to the broker regulations. Our development team incorporated all those changes into the new modernized platform.
We've been asking the trade to go into the modernized portal and add information pertaining to their employees, and they had to add some new contacts that they didn't have to add before. But all this work is done from the new modernized platform — not the old one. We're asking the trade not to use the old one because everything is moving forward to the new interface.
AIAG: How does the system help with security issues related to exporting and importing?
Rodriguez: The modernized portal platform contains increased security features that include a multifactor authentication login process, and this ensures that ACE portal users’ access information is safe and secure. Before, in the legacy environment, the user logged in with their user ID and password and that was it. Now, with the new modernized system, the application will send a token to a user's email and that user must get the token to log in. There are multiple layers of security that have been added to the system. With the increasing number of cybersecurity attacks, that was a big priority for CBP to enhance its systems and make them more secure.
AIAG: What skillset does one need to use the ACE portal successfully? What resources are available to help users understand and make the most out of the system?
Rodriguez: To help users stay up to date on these enhancements, CBP offers dedicated ACE resources online on cbp.gov/ace. The website offers a wide variety of training resources to help users successfully implement ACE functionality, which can be accessed directly on the ACE training website’s online reference guide. We have a page dedicated to quick reference guides and videos as well that will guide users with limited experience as well as someone who is well versed in the system or wants to go back and refresh on certain functionalities.
In addition to that, for ACE reports, we've broken down all the different features of the system into specific topics to make learning the system easy. Our ACE reports application is a very powerful tool, and it can do a lot of things with the data that we capture from the trade community. To show people how to use it effectively, we break it down into different topics and show them the main steps to get them started using the system.
AIAG: What is the biggest misperception importers and exporters have about the ACE system?
Rodriguez: I would say the biggest misperception about the ACE portal is that it's daunting. Don't let the amount of functionality in the ACE portal overwhelm you. When you begin with any new system, new ACE portal users should take the time to explore its capabilities and how it can help them conduct business. CBP recognizes that there are a variety of ACE portal users with various needs because you every company is different. Therefore, we have developed resources for users who may be just kicking tires, those users who are just getting behind the wheel, and those users who are ready to really get under the hood.
We have users who may use the portal for just one piece of functionality, and we have companies that have multiple business activities with CBP, and our system provides a little bit of everything for all the different companies and industries that interact with CBP. We know that there's a lot of functionality, and sometimes it's a little challenging to remember it all, but we try to help as much as possible. We want people to use this system because we have built a very powerful system and dedicated a lot of time and money to it. We want people to use it.
AIAG: What is the biggest challenge facing exporters and importers right now?
Rodriguez: From a system perspective, I would say just keeping their accounts active and making the best out of all the features that are available in the tool. We publish a lot of messages with different pieces of information, and it's kind of hard sometimes to keep track of all of it because people in the industry are busy with their work and their responsibilities. So sometimes just keeping up with everything that's been deployed and that's available out there in the system is one of the biggest challenges for everybody — and not only externally but even internally for us as well, because there's just too many details and too many instructions for everything that is available.
I recommend that any time there are opportunities to learn our system and participate in these types of events, like the one coming up at AIAG in November, it’s a good idea to jump on board and take advantage.