eHBL Restart Date: Not Anytime Soon

eHBL Restart Date: Not Anytime Soon

Are you a business owner, attempting to make decisions around staffing, agency development, resource allocation?  Or perhaps you’re an operations manager trying to create process efficiencies or customer service enhancements?  Or perhaps you’re the IT manager wondering how you’ll schedule or integrate eHBL with the Canada Border Services Agency’s Single Window initiative or Integrated Import Declaration (IID).

In any event, it seems that not a day goes by without a question coming into the CIFFA Secretariat about eHBL and potential restart dates. What can we expect?  When will the program take off again? What is happening? The short answers, in reverse order: Nothing. Eventually. Not much in the short term.

Last week Julia Kuzeljevich, Paul Hughes and Ruth Snowden made the trek to chilly Ottawa to meet with senior management at the CBSA’s Commercial Policy division and with eHBL policy and project staff.

CBSA’s eHBL project is on hold and at this time, there is no restart date to announce.  We have been assured that the eHBL program is funded and will be completed.  However, we assume because so many deadlines have been missed, the eHBL systems fix – the infamous systems Change Request (CR) – has dropped so low on a priorities list of IT fixes within the Agency that it might be months before we even get a date.

Our best guess is that the six months of informed compliance leading up to mandatory eHBL might begin in Q4 of 2018.  We seriously doubt if the CBSA will get its act together before that. What a colossal mess.  Wasted energy.  Wasted human resources. Wasted good-will.  Wasted opportunity.  And the last is the most disappointing.  We had an opportunity to bring Canada’s antiquated import system into the digital age.  We had opportunities to dramatically reduce paper, to increase efficiency across the country, to be prepared for the upsurge in commercial imports into this country that we’re currently experiencing.  All wasted – for months and, for all we know, possibly years.

That said, CBSA’s dedicated eManifest staff have been very open in communicating with CIFFA and remain committed to examining potential paths, workarounds and fixes. The CBSA staff on the eHBL file are to be commended for continuing to get up every morning, go to work and try to deliver a solution.

CIFFA’s outreach thus far on eManifest has been tremendous, with ongoing communications, explanations, and recommendations for planning prior to and during planned implementation.

We’ve been on this file since 2010, clocked hundreds if not thousands of hours in meetings, and regularly kept members apprised of developments on the eHBL front. Even as late as May 2017 in our Director’s Blog, CBSA Work Arounds – Too Many eHBL System Fixes, Not Enough Fingers  we identified some of the many work arounds and system holes that the Agency needed to address.

At that time, CBSA was working on many work-arounds, band-aids and fixes, and the community was awaiting the official communication from the CBSA informing the entire community that the July 12, 2017 mandatory data filing date would indeed be pushed back by several months, giving some breathing space to get proper fixes in place.

Fast forward to 2018, and unfortunately, a “workable system that is supported by an adequate policy structure” remains an elusive concept.

CIFFA will continue to work with the CBSA and to communicate decisions and guidance to our members. In the meantime, eHBL works well for consolidations. If you can ‘turn it on’ for air or marine consolidations clearing out of CW type sufferance warehouses, go for it.  Members who have flipped even a partial switch are pleased with the results.  Mostly they’re pleased that they aren’t waiting hours and days at Longrooms across the country for paper to be stamped.