ACI eManifest refers to the transmission of cargo information in electronic format to Customs authorities prior to the arrival of the shipment at the border crossing or port of entry. The eManifest program is part of the larger Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program run by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).  ACI is aimed at facilitating and modernizing international trade processes between Canada and its international trading partners. eManifest is a program that is designed to enhance the security and safety of Canadians while easing customs clearance for low risk, legitimate shipments.
Under the eManifest program freight forwarders, importers and carriers need to submit electronic information about their shipments to the CBSA before such shipment is loaded or arrives at a Canadian port of entry.

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ACI eManifest: An Initiative of the CBSA.

eManifest is critical in the identification of threats to Canadian security, safety, and health before shipments arrive in the country. The program is charged with the collection and assessment of conveyance and shipment data. This information is then provided to the CBSA that can then evaluate the information to pinpoint high-risk conveyances before they arrive at ports of entry.

Through the eManifest system, customs and border clearance processes are made more secure, efficient, and compatible with international standards and those set by its American counterpart. Many countries have adopted similar electronic processes to the ACI eManifest program. The electronic system makes it possible for customs officials to identify and classify shipments before they arrive at points of entry, significantly enhancing the efficiency of cross border processes and trade. The eManifest program works in harmony with the requirements of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ACE program and under the recommendations of the World Customs Organization (WCO).

eManifest closely resembles the American Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) initiative, even though the ACE and ACI have no connection. Nonetheless, the alignment of procedures provides benefits to the government, Canadians and the trading community. The eManifest program improves communication between the CBSA, businesses and reduces the administrative burden that was caused by manual processes. Under the program, businesses can be more efficient in their operations since they get real-time status notifications.

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CBSA eManifest Portal

The eManifest Portal is an online platform designed by the CBSA to facilitate the electronic transmission of conveyance and cargo information before the arrival of shipments at border points. This makes it possible for the CBSA to ease approval and enhance security processes. The main objective of the system is to assess and monitor the potential security of cargo coming into the country and in doing so protect the health and safety of Canadians.

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The Main Features of the eManifest Portal

The portal allows stakeholders to

1. Securely send their trade data to the CBSA
2. Access reference material and online help
3. Receive notifications and confirm receipt of information from the CBSA
4. Receive system communication from the CBSA regarding important updates related to their cross-border activity
5. Verify the status of cross border trade information that was transmitted either by the EDI or through the Portal

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eManifest ACI Requirements for Commercial Clients

In most instances, eManifest is a requirement for all cargo and conveyances coming into the country using any mode of transportation. Certain shipments that may be exempted include shipments that are cleared under the Courier Low-Value Shipment Program, full load postal shipments, and cargo and conveyances exiting Canada.

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How ACI eManifest Works

eManifest makes it mandatory for all rail, air and highway carriers to electronically submit conveyance and cargo information to the CBSA in advance. For freight forwarders, it is also a requirement to transmit secondary data or more commonly known as house bill data. Forwarders and carriers can use the online eManifest Portal, EDI or third-party software solutions to send and receive data and information with CBSA.

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Highway: It is mandatory for conveyance and cargo data to be submitted and validated by the CBSA no longer than an hour prior to the shipment arriving at the border.

Rail: It is mandatory for conveyance and cargo data to be submitted and validated by the CBSA no longer than two hours prior to the shipment arriving at the border.

Ocean: It is mandatory for conveyance and cargo data to be submitted and validated by the CBSA no longer than 24 hours before the loading of the vessel at the foreign port

Air: It is mandatory for conveyance and cargo data to be submitted and validated by the CBSA no longer than 4 hours before the arrival of the aircraft

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ACI eManifest Implementation Timeline

The implementation of eManifest was implemented in phases. Phase 1 was the ACI Ocean mode that was launched on April 19, 2004, Phase 2 went live in June 2006 and implemented air mode shipments. Phase 3 of the eManifest program was implemented according to the below timeline.

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Critical dates for ACI Highway

May 6, 2015 – Regulatory amendments to facilitate the implementation of the eManifest program were published in the Canada Gazette. According to the new amendments rail carriers, freight forwarders and highway carriers are now legally bound by eManifest requirements.

May 6 to July 10, 2015 – Transition period for carriers where noncompliance would not result in penalties.

July 10 to January 10, 2016 – Noncompliance with eManifest requirements by carriers to attract non-monetary penalties

January 10, 2016 – Carriers not in compliance with the requirements of the eManifest program to face monetary penalties.

Over the coming years, CBSA is expected to improve the ACI program to include features that include:

1. eManifest Portal and EDI to allow importers to submit Advance Trade Data (ATD)
2. Expanded Manifest Forward functionality and new end state ACI eManifest Notices for clients in all modes through the eManifest Portal and the EDI.
3. New multi-modal cargo message maps in all transportation modes.

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ACI eManifest Data Transmission

There are three ways through which carriers may transmit data to the CBSA that include:

1. A third party solution by a service provider that has been approved by the CBSA to provide the solution
2. The eManifest Portal
3. Electronic data interchange (EDI)

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eManifest Portal

The eManifest Portal was designed to facilitate the web-based transmission of advance shipment data. The eManifest Portal was originally designed to serve the compliance needs of small-sized businesses.

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EDI System

The EDI system makes it possible for the direct exchange of data from one computer to another. Clients submitting data to the CBSA have a choice of four EDI systems: third-party provider solutions, direct connection, Customs Internet Gateway, or Value Added Network (VAN).

  1. VAN – This refers to a public EDI network that makes it possible for several clients to use a shared platform to exchange information with the CBSA and with each other. Clients are required to pay for the use of the VAN portal and other associated fees.
  2. Customs Internet Gateway (CIG) – This is a gateway operated by the CBSA that makes it possible for clients to send and receive data online.
  3. Direct Connect to CBSA – For an initial investment of $30,000 for setting up and $7,000 for annual maintenance, clients get the benefit of directly connecting to the CBSA.
  4. Third Party Service Provider – There are several third-party service providers approved by the CBSA to provide data transmission and exchange services using a variety of communication methods.