Last Friday, OHL had the pleasure of interviewing Dora Murphy, Assistant Director Field Operations and Trade Director of the Apparel, Footwear and Textile Center. In this interview, OHL asked a number of trade-related questions, and Dora provided in-depth feedback that will hopefully answer some of the questions that both current CEE participants and non participants may have.
How many AFT (Apparel, Footwear and Textile) importers are currently CEE participants How many importers on average are accepted to the CEE per month? And when do you expect to expand as we are currently seeing with the CEE for Electronics, CEE for Petroleum, Natural Gas & Minerals, and CEE for Pharmaceuticals, Health & Chemicals?
There are currently 33 importers that are CEE participants, which cover more than 100 Importer of Record numbers; ¾ of these importers are CTPAT and ISA certified.
The CEE wants to make sure that when they accept an importer as a participant, they are completely prepared for them. The CEE would like for each importer to have a great experience, and although it may be frustrating for importers to wait for acceptance, the CEE will not bring on anyone if they are not internally staffed and prepared to handle the account.
One of the main take-aways from the West Coast Trade Symposium a few weeks ago was that the expansion of the additional CEEs will take place in 2016. Dora predicts that, based on the enthusiasm and interest from the AFT community, the AFT CEE will be one of the first of the additional CEEs to begin full expansion.
Will the CEEs and the NIS eventually be integrated?
A dedicated CBP working group is considering how rulings issued by the NCSD today will eventually be issued when the relationship with the CEEs is finalized. It is CBP’s clear intention to preserve the quality and objectivity of the rulings process.
How will the 100% eventual rollout affect current members of the CEE?
Once the CEE is 100% operational, they plan on and are working on a tiered benefit program for CEE participants. The first importers accepted as CEE participants have, for the most part, been CTPAT and ISA certified. As more importers are accepted in the program, an importer’s credentials will then affect what benefits are available to them through the Center.
An example of one of the benefits currently available to CTPAT and ISA certified participants is the CEE's twice-weekly hold report, which allows them to see what shipments are on hold (for those specific importers) across the country, at any port. The CEE will contact these ports directly, many times before the importer is even aware that their shipment is on hold, to expedite resolution or to do what they can to find resolution.
One of the CEE's biggest concerns was management of the current participants during the rollout. With the current rollout of the first three CEEs, the remaining CEEs hope to learn best practices, what not to do, etc. Having learned from the first three CEEs, the remaining Centers hope to take a more aggressive approach as they become 100% operational.
How does the CEE accommodate the additional work with each importer that joins?
As mentioned previously, the CEE will not bring on a new participant until they know they can handle the work load. Personnel at the ports will be transferred over to work with the CEE, but that transferring of staff is not an overnight process. The CEEs are very respectful of the ports' needs and will do their homework (run reports, check import volume, compliance measurements) at each of the ports prior to tapping a port for personnel. At each port, the CEE has “core” employees who are full-time CEE staff, as well as “matrix” employees who work for the port but are pulled as needed for the CEE work. The CEE understands that there are still functions and processes that need to be dealt with at the port and do not want to pull personnel if it is not necessary.
Has the simultaneous conversion to ACE affected the AFT CEE integration process at all?
Surprisingly, there have not been any noteworthy issues.
One of the biggest challenges has been training their team to work in the “virtual environment” that the CEE promotes. Just as it is an adjustment for importers and brokers to alter their work habits, it is also an adjustment for CBP.
Finally, an additional comment from Dora regarding suggestions they have received from the Apparel , Footwear & Textile community was:
The CEE is aware of the training that takes place at each of the ports, for both the importers, brokers, and CBP staff. What the CEE hopes to increase and improve upon, and what they have received a lot of feedback on, is the need for bi-directional training. They want to open the port-level training to webinars that anyone can join across the country. They want to further open the line of communication for the trade.
P.S. Don't forget to register for our upcoming webinar on Thursday on Customs Audits and Focused Assessments!