The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Montreal Port 395 is facing the same pressures as everyone else in the inbound movement of goods these days, plus a few problems unique to this specific time and place. Members advise delays of +4 working days (+ weekend days) for the CBSA to stamp and return re-manifest documents at the Montreal Longroom. The Agency advises that although delays did spike up to 3 days earlier this week, times have reduced somewhat but are still much longer than desired. The CBSA is acutely aware of the problem and is taking steps to address.
First, what has caused the longer than usual time to stamp and return documents?
Let’s consider what happens when you mix an extended and busy peak season, with the almost total failure of eHBL, refugees and normal human resource issues.
For the past several weeks the CBSA has been dealing with an influx of refugees at Canadian borders and experienced officers and clerical staff from Montreal have been sent to help out at Lacolle. This has caused a shortage of experienced staff in the commercial area. Then, we must remember that it is September and time for the full-time temporary summer -student clerks to go back to school, leaving their desks in the Longroom empty, with new hires and part-time clerks taking their place. There is a learning curve to any job and the complaints from some members that manifests are being rejected for unknown reasons might be attributable to these new employees on the desk.
Finally, the CBSA is dealing with a huge surge in requests for stamping. There are two reasons for this upsurge.
As we all know, we’re in the middle of a very busy, high volume, unanticipated, long peak season. Volumes are up in both air and marine.
Add to this the decision by the CBSA not to allow eHBL filing for back-to-back shipments destined to a primary warehouse and somehow that has caused a huge reduction in all eHBL data filing. It is as if we have made no progress over the past year and we are back where we started – even though the eHBL works very well for consolidations destined to a CW sufferance warehouse.
NVOCC and consolidators who did implement eHBL are frustrated because their customers – the forwarders in the tier upon tier within the co-load – have not implemented eHBL. When one or two forwarders fail to file eHBL, consolidators are forced to run dual filings and paper rules.
For whatever reason eHBL is an almost total failure right now. Probably because origin agents won’t maintain two systems, one for eHBL filing for consolidations and one for ACI S10 filing of data for single / back-to-back shipments, many forwarders have switched back to paper manifests. This is truly a shame, because eHBL works so well for consolidations, and THERE IS NO PAPER REMANIFEST STAMPING REQUIRED for a consolidation where eHBL data was filed. And, because the back-to-back / single shipment clears on the primary 9000 cargo control number, those shipments don’t require stamping.
However, it seems that eHBL filing for consolidations has gone by the wayside and a deluge of paper has built up at the Longroom counter in Montreal – and Vancouver and everywhere across the country.
If Canadian forwarders could somehow insist that eHBL be filed for their consolidations, everyone would benefit and the CBSA might not have stacks of paper up to the ceiling. Maybe it is time for the CBSA to put into place a mandatory date for eHBL filing on consolidations. That would force Canadian forwarders and the rest of the world to switch consolidations to eHBL and to stay there.
The CBSA in Montreal is asking its officers and clerks to work overtime to clear the backlogs and try to get back to a 24-hour turn-around time on document stamping. We’re asking forwarders to switch to eHBL for their consolidations and get rid of paper re-manifests.
Importers face long delays at Prince Rupert and Vancouver’s Deltaport as containers sit for 6 or 7 or 10 days before being loaded to rail. Train schedules are disrupted, with trains expected to arrive at inland terminals on a Thursday or Friday pushed back to Saturday and Sunday, adding extra days to the transit and creating stress as carters try to get containers out before storage begins. Drayage operators wait hours at rail terminals in Toronto and Montreal to retrieve cargo. Now it seems added delays in stamping at CBSA Longrooms is adding more stress into the system.
These all combine to increasing frustration, increasing costs, and strain on importers’ supply chains. This has been a long, tough peak season and there is no end in sight for the next several weeks although the CBSA in Montreal is doing what it can to relieve the stress of its delays.