A Look Back and Where We Are Now

A joint U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program, Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) requires data be submitted to U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) any time before cargo is loaded at a foreign airport.

ACAS Update

June 12, 2018 - ACAS is now mandatory for air cargo. With the issuance of the ACAS Interim Final Rule (IFR), the regulation is open to final comments ahead of the full penalty phase.

According to the regulation, the “ACAS filer is liable for the timeliness and accuracy of the data that they transmit”. This means that it is urgent for carriers and forwarders to take action now to ensure compliance.


In January, the U.S. tightened security for air cargo with a last point of departure in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Shipments bound for the U.S. from these locations must submit an ACAS filing.

From a practical perspective, this rapid-deploy exercise in January was made possible by the foundation laid during the ongoing ACAS pilot. Each extension of the pilot has given time for refinement of business process, and an opportunity for additional trade members to participate. 

Blog: Revisiting Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) Timeline
About ACAS: It’s Foundation & The Global Context

The goal of ACAS is to:

  1. Collect information further back in the supply chain 
  2. Identify higher risk air shipments
  3. Accelerate the movement of lower risk cargo. 

Think of some countries’ Advanced Passenger Information Systems (APIS), but for air cargo. On October 24, 2012, CBP published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) that formalized the program. Subsequent announcements either extended or reopened the ACAS application period.   

ACAS is one of the similar initiatives worldwide. Known as Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) programs, equivalents include Pre-Load Air Cargo Targeting (PACT) in Canada, and Pre-loading Consignment Information for Secure Entry (PRECISE) or Import Control System-2 (ICS-2) in the EU. As with ACAS, PACT and PRECISE aim to enhance national security. Unlike ACAS today, however, both programs are pure pilots, with no country-specific mandatory requirements.

Initiatives such as ACAS also place additional responsibilities on freight forwarders. ACAS for example, allows for a forwarder-carrier dual filing. This functionality is geared to help forwarders to file in advance of physically tendering cargo to their carriers.

At a practical level, requirements such as these can be game-changing for forwarders as additional steps will be required at the operational and systems level. Solutions are required to easily comply with the regulation without draining IT bandwidth or slowing processes.

How Descartes Can Help

Descartes has been involved with the ACAS pilot since its inception. We understand the requirements of small, mid-size and large forwarders, as well as carriers. With the U.S. among many countries that are deploying similar programs, getting on board with an extensible solution is critical. Our expertise and flexible range of options can help the air cargo industry rapidly achieve compliance, and do it what it does best—move freight.  

What’s different about Descartes is our adaptable, turnkey architecture and extensibility. Descartes provides a holistic framework to help companies do more via one service provider, and/or one point of connectivity.

Simply stated, this means that as businesses expand, it’s easy to do more with Descartes. We can help enable compliance with ACAS, meet the requirements of other security filing initiatives, transition to programs such as the Electronic Air Waybill (eAWB), achieve and maintain Cargo iQ certification, attain Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) accreditation, book flights, drive down rates, and much more.

It all starts with the right solution. Ask us how to get started. 

Written by Rob Pedersen

Director, Customs Compliance and Government Solutions at Descartes