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CBP Calls on New Volunteers for Customs Inspection Pilot

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wants to bring more participants into its Section 321 Data Pilot, a program designed to help the government agency better identify and target high-risk shipments for inspection.

Nine companies have been participating in the pilot since its inception, including Amazon, eBay, FedEx, DHL, UPS, Zulily, customs compliance firm PreClear and logistics providers XB Fulfillment and BoxC Logistics.

First implemented on Aug. 22, 2019, the Section 321 Data Pilot was launched to help the CBP better pre-identify potentially illegal cargo before it enters the U.S.

When the first nine participants were first announced in January 2020, the agency specifically called out its intent to stop shipments of illicit and dangerous products such as “illicit narcotics, unregulated prescription drugs, brand counterfeits, and unsafe food and beauty products,” for more targeted screenings while expediting the process for legitimate “low-value” e-commerce shipments​.

These low-value shipments enter the U.S. under de minimis procedures, which allow small packages valued at $800 or less to enter the U.S. tax and duty-free.

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Under the program, participants must send the CBP certain information for any U.S.-bound Section 321 shipment. While the required data elements may differ slightly depending on which company transmits the data, there are general ground rules for data shared across all shipments.

All participants must share data related to the party initiating the shipment—such as the retailer, manufacturer or shipper—as well as an enhanced description of the product in the package, the listed marketplace price and the final recipient.

Participating carriers must also verify that a foreign security scan for the shipment has been completed, such as an x-ray image or other security screening report. They must also identify the shipper as a repeat customer that has consistently paid all required fees and does not have any known trade violations.

Participating online marketplaces must send through the buyer’s name and address, the seller’s name and address, and if applicable, the shipment initiator’s name and address. The marketplace also must verify that it has vetted the seller and that it has no known trade violations. Along with the enhanced product description and listed price, the marketplace must share a product picture and a link to the product listing.

So far, the CBP said the pilot has resulted in “faster and more accurate” risk assessment and adjudication. By increasing pilot participation, the agency expects to further improve CBP estimates that 85 percent of all shipments entering the United States are small packages valued at less than $800.

“CBP has processed more than 380 million shipments via the Section 321 Data Pilot since it was initiated in August 2019. Section 321 Data Pilot information has enabled faster and more accurate risk assessment by CBP and fewer holds for the pilot participants who are submitting additional data elements, such as seller information, product pictures and other details,” said Brandon Lord, executive director of CBP’s trade policy and programs, in a statement. “CBP is excited to expand the pilot, as bringing on board additional partners will allow the agency to test new technologies and the collection of non-traditional data elements to identify additional facilitation benefits for the trade community and CBP.”

The CBP said that expanding participation in the Section 321 Data Pilot benefits both government and industry by increasing the amount of advanced data CBP can use to identify, disrupt and deter illegal practices like counterfeit goods that threaten legitimate businesses, while creating additional opportunities to leverage and explore new technology to facilitate legal trade flows.

There is no limit to the number of volunteers CBP will accept for the expanded pilot, which will end in August 2025 unless further extended.

Initially, the data pilot applied only to Section 321 shipments arriving by air, truck or rail, but was expanded in December 2019 to include shipments arriving by ocean and international mail. On Aug. 30, 2021, CBP then extended the pilot for an additional two years through August 2023 to continue evaluating the pilot and the risks associated with Section 321 shipments.

The CBP doesn’t have intellectual property seizure data for 2022 yet, but the agency indicated that in 2021, it confiscated more than $3.3 billion in counterfeit goods across 27,115 unique incidents. Apparel and accessories led the way with 30 percent of the seized goods, while handbags and wallets totaled 27.6 percent. Footwear came in third at 13 percent of total products seized.