DHL Express Canada deploys Descartes for customs compliance

The Canada Border Services Agency has just made it mandatory for companies to comply with its Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program – Canada’s new customs filing legislation. ACI requires companies to file their air parcel shipments with customs before their arrival in Canada, which is similar to current U.S. legislation.

“Security trumps trade – that’s something we have to live with in our lives these days,” said Chris Sheedy, director of international operations with DHL Express Canada. “From a business perspective we want to be fully compliant with all security regulations but still move the packages as quickly as possible.”

According to the new legislation, DHL must provide Canadian customs with information on its high-value shipments before they arrive in the country. “If we were not able to comply with ACI requirements, we would need to hold all our high-value material and (we wouldn’t) be able to offload it,” he said.

DHL is the first air parcel carrier to use ViaTrade compliance technology (traditionally used by truckers) developed by ViaSafe Inc., which was recently acquired by Descartes Systems Group. DHL is using the ViaTrade Web interface to Descartes’ Global Logistics Network (GLN) to transmit cargo information a minimum of four hours before aircraft arrival time to help expedite cross-border shipments.

“It’s a stack of documents,” said Ed Ryan, general manager of Descartes Global Logistics Network. “If they’re not submitted properly, if a truck driver or an airplane gets to the border, they’re turned back. If they do everything properly, they have an opportunity to get across the border faster.” He expects similar legislation to come into effect in other parts of the world.

Logistics company Descartes acquired ViaSafe and Flagship Customs Services Inc. to add regulatory compliance as a service to GLN, its on-demand electronic logistics network. GLN connects transportation providers – including some 1,800 trucking companies in North America, 37 ocean carriers and most major air carriers – to their customers.

“What we’re doing at a very basic level is sending information to and from them, to and from their customers,” he said. This information includes tenders, receiving and status messages. “They pay us to put it in a format that’s consistent with the needs of the customer’s back-office system. If those customers don’t have back-office systems to load this data into, we provide value-added applications on top of the network that enable them to make use of it.”

ViaTrade was designed to connect trucking companies to the pre-arrival processing systems of customs brokers in the U.S. and Canada, and manage cross-border documentation processing requirements.

DHL has been using GLN for the past 10 years to exchange airway bills and status messages with air cargo carriers. “The reason we use them for ACI is they already have our data and they gave us a competitive bid,” said Sheedy. “We do not have an interface with customs directly so ViaTrade is handling that for us – they’re taking our data and feeding it to customs in the format that’s required for ACI.”

This allows for the free flow of packages once they arrive in the country, he said. “It doesn’t really speed it up, but it doesn’t slow it down,” he added. “We want to maintain the status quo.”

DHL is all for ACI, he added. “It’s great that customs wants to know what’s coming into the country before it gets here,” he said, “(but) we still want to move shipments as quickly as possible despite the change in regulation.”

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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