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By Carl Soller
Soller Law Intl


Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has continued to proceed with new initiatives to improve both commercial and security goals. The long-term outcome is yet to be determined.

Reimbursable Services Program (RSP)

The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2016 authorizes agreements between Customs and the private sector. In its reasoning for this program the Government has acknowledged what the trade has known for some time. Because of a lack of sufficient personnel and infrastructure resources there is an “increase in cargo backups” and thus equivalent delays in the delivery of that cargo to the U.S. purchaser. “The RSP enables partnerships between CBP and private sector or government entities to address these challenges.”

The services impacted are all elements that CBP provides or additional services upon “the request of stakeholder,” but won’t “unduly impact existing services.” The costs may include and cover salaries, benefits, overtime expenses, administration and transportation costs. Airport services, except for “small airports,” can only be used for “overtime and agriculture services.” 

Although in this article we are only concerned with cargo, the RSP also applies to passenger activity.

There is no “formal application,” but a detailed list of required application information is available from CBP.

Thus far the program has resulted in over 60 agreements scattered among large and small air and seaport locations as well as warehouse facilities across the country.

Due to certain geographical restrictions on Customs Port oversight abilities, it is expected that Bonded facilities outside those geographic locations will be permitted to thrive because of this “Public-Private” partnership program.

CBP Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE)

CBP has long sought the ideal methodology to capture and incorporate expertise and experience in centralized locations. More than 20 years ago CBP initiated a program to centralize commodity groups reviewing particular classes of imports (oil, shoes, wearing apparel, machinery, et al) in specific locations throughout the US. It was deemed by CBP to be transparent for the trade as only review of import “entries” would occur after the importer or its Customs Broker filed the entry. The program was “junked” because it was determined that experienced “commodity specialists” and inspectors could only do their jobs effectively if they could “examine freight” at the actual location of the freight. As a result, those “centralized locations” were eliminated and the expertise was restored to the individual CBP port locations.

Forward to 2015: a seemingly similar rationale, which was debunked as explained above, is now in place as CEE’s.

As you are all aware CBP has implemented the CEE concept. There are distinctive CEE centers placed throughout the country. Conceptually each is located in a geographic district that is a center for import of a specific commodity: e.g. oil in Houston; wearing apparel in San Francisco. Each is required to have the requisite knowledge and experience to advise the trade on the sometimes complex and esoteric concepts and procedures attendant to the importation of that commodity.

The concept makes sense; however, as a practical matter the delegation of authority often creates further confusion. As an example, an importer files an entry at the port of arrival in California of automotive devices. The entry is detained by CBP. Often that merchandise remains at the pier for days or weeks because the entry has no CBP official “owning” or responsible for the review and resolution of the problem and the CBP ACE/automated program is regularly unable to direct the importer or even the local Port Director to the CEE official authorized to review and resolve the issue.

What is created is often very costly to the importer, as storage and demurrage charges accumulate because of processing delays and not because of any error in the import process. It is predicted by some that the CEE program will either be discontinued or revamped so that the required experience is again available at all ports of entry.  

Protest: Who has it and how to get a copy

This last issue is the prototypical result of implementing a system before all of the legal or technological kinks are removed. CBP and the trade often disagree on the correct “classification or appraisal” of imported goods stated on the filed CBP entry.

The procedure in place by statute is for the importer, its agent or attorney to contest the CBP decision by filing a “protest” after the final decision by CBP is rendered (the liquidation). Under the CBP Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) System, CBP has authorized submission and filing of the protest via the ACE system. This sounds great and consistent with modern technology enhancing the efficiency of both the trade’s and CBP operations.

What’s missing? CBP is not able to electronically create a copy of the protest with attachments to send to the filer. It is essential to be certain that what you have submitted has been properly filed and stored by CBP. If your protest is denied, the option is to appeal to the Court of International Trade. Can you imagine the Court’s reaction if told by CBP or the involved party that a copy of the protest is unavailable because CBP did not implement automated procedure necessary to produce documents required by the Court?

Currently there is only one secure option: Continue to submit protests manually.  

Carl R. Soller, Customs, International Cargo and Regulatory Compliance Attorney is counsel to companies engaged in all elements of the import/export supply chain and a recognized expert in his practice areas.  He and his firm concentrate their International, Regulatory and Cargo Practice in all business and regulatory matters on a nationwide basis.  He offers advice on supply chain security and its related Government Regulations to the Cargo Community as well as advice and a vast range of assistance to importers and exporters of all kinds of consumer goods.  He can be reached at (516) 812-6650 or

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