Canadian Customs Clearance Process: Advance Commercial Information

By | 06/10/2014

Global Customs Trends – Advance Commercial Information(ACI)


1. Overview

The ACI program is about providing CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) officers with electronic pre-arrival information so that they are equipped with the right information at the right time to identify health, safety and security threats related to commercial goods before the goods arrive in Canada.

2. Background

In 2000, then-Minister of National Revenue Martin Cauchon introduced the objectives that would lead to ACI as part of the Customs Action Plan. After the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, the security benefits associated with the project took on new importance. In the Canada-US Smart Border Declaration created in December of that year, then-Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley and United States Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge called for “a system to collaborate in identifying high risk goods while expediting the flow of low risk goods.”

The idea for ACI was based on the American Container Security Initiative (CSI) that created preclearance rules. With the CSI effectively posting Customs officers at foreign ports around the world, Canada was under significant pressure to introduce a similar plan or face the reality that CBP officers would be placed in Canadian ports. As this would be a very visible loss of Canadian sovereignty, the CBSA quickly came up with the ACI plan. ACI includes the following rules, which are very similar to the rules of the CSI.

3. Implementation and Enforcement

Advance Commercial Information-Verification of a marine container at dockside

(1) Phase 1: Marine Mode
Phase I of the Advance Commercial Information (ACI) Program was implemented on April 19, 2004, requiring marine carriers to electronically transmit marine cargo data to the CBSA 24 hours prior to cargo loading at a foreign port. This requirement allows the CBSA to effectively identify threats to Canada’s health, safety, and security prior to the arrival of cargo and conveyances in Canada.

<image source: Canada Border Services Agency>

(2) Phase 2: Air Mode and Marine Shipments Loaded in the United States

Implementation of Phase 2 of the ACI program was completed on July 26, 2006, requiring air carriers and freight forwarders, where applicable, to electronically transmit conveyance, cargo and supplementary cargo data to the CBSA four hours prior to arrival in Canada or, if the duration of the flight to Canada is less than four hours, before the aircraft’s time of departure.

As well, ACI Phase 2 also expanded marine requirements to include shipments loaded in the United States.

(3) Phase 3: eManifest

eManifest will require the electronic transmission of advance cargo and conveyance information from carriers for all highway and rail shipments. In addition, the electronic transmission of advance secondary data will be required with freight forwarders and the electronic transmission of advance importer data will be required by importers or their brokers. Let’s find out more about eManifest in the next section.

4. eManifest

(1) What is eManifest?

eManifest is a major transformative initiative that is modernizing and improving cross-border commercial processes. eManifest is the third phase of the Advance Commercial Information (ACI) initiative. ACI was introduced in the marine mode in 2004 and in the air mode in 2006.

When fully implemented, eManifest will require carriers, freight forwarders and importers in all modes of transportation (air, marine, highway and rail) to electronically transmit advance commercial information to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) within the prescribed mode-specific time frames.

(2) Why do we need eManifest?

eManifest is part of the overall measure the Government of Canada is putting in place to enhance the safety, security and prosperity of Canadians and international trade while streamlining commercial cross-border processes.

Thousands of commercial shipments reach Canada’s border each day. By rigorously performing risk assessments on the advance data sent by the party who is in the best position to provide it, the CBSA is better able to assess the level of risk associated with each shipment.

(3) What are the benefits of eManifest?

The CBSA is committed to delivering a reliable, modernized and efficient commercial processing system that provides benefits to the trade community, the Government of Canada, and to Canadians.

eManifest will be a virtually paperless process that starts before shipments reach the border and enables low-risk, legitimate trade to cross the border more efficiently.

The transmission and notification systems being implemented under eManifest are improving two-way communication between businesses and with the CBSA. Businesses will also have the ability to receive all notices on the status and disposition of their shipments as they move through the commercial process, via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or the eManifest Portal.

eManifest is harmonizing information requirements to the greatest extent possible with the World Customs Organization and the United States (U.S.) Customs and Border Protection to reduce the administrative burden on business.

Trusted trader programs such Customs Self Assessment (CSA) and Partners in Protection (PIP) will continue to exist with the implementation of eManifest, and will complement the systems and processes that will be put in place by eManifest.

(4) What has been accomplished to date?

eManifest accomplishments to date include:
• the deployment of electronic systems (EDI and eManifest Portal) for highway carriers to transmit advance cargo and conveyance data, in 2011;
• the deployment of EDI systems for rail carriers to transmit advance cargo and conveyance data, in 2012; and
• the deployment of EDI and eManifest Portal systems for freight forwarders in all modes of transportation to transmit advance house bill data, in 2013.
Voluntary compliance periods are currently in effect for highway and rail carriers as well as for freight forwarders.


For additional information on how you can prepare for ACI / eManifest, please leave a comment below or contact us here.


Global Customs Trends Series:
(1) U.S. – Automated Manifest System (AMS)
(2) U.S. – Import Security Filing (ISF) Regulation
(3) Canada – Advance Commercial Information (ACI)
(4) China – China Customs Advance Manifest (CCAM) Regulation
(5) Europe – Entry Summary Declaration (ENS)
(6) Japan – Advanced Filing Rule (AFR)

Posted by Ki-Nam Kim, a solution specialist, who has researched and developed a business solution related to customs and logistics.