Automated Manifest System (AMS)

The Automated Manifest System (AMS) – a fundamental aspect of global logistics – is one of many components that make up international shipping. Any misunderstanding or mishandling of AMS data can lead to costly penalties and delays in shipping for SMBs.

In this guide, we aim to simplify AMS for SMBs, highlight its significance, and provide you with an overview of the essential information needed for an effective international shipping operation.


What is the Automated Manifest System in Shipping?

Automated Manifest System (AMS) is an electronic inventory control and tracking system operated by the  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to process data related to the import and export of goods into and out of the country.

The AMS helps facilitate trade between countries by providing a single entry point for all parties involved in international shipping activities, such as carriers, shippers, brokers, consignees, importers/exporters, government agencies, etc, by sea, air, road, and rail.

The system enables users to  submit their manifest information (including shipment descriptions) electronically before arrival or departure from any U.S. port of entry or exit point to reduce the time and paperwork associated with the traditional paper-based process.


Working Principles of the AMS System

The AMS system facilitates real-time tracking of cargo, which helps customs authorities and other relevant agencies manage and monitor cargo movement efficiently. It operates electronically, reducing the need for physical paperwork and enhancing the efficiency of the shipping process.


How is Information Entered Into the AMS System?

To leverage the AMS system, shippers,  freight forwarders, agents, or carriers are required to enter a set of data into the system electronically. The data is then shared with CBP and other authorities for compliance and control purposes.

Submitting information into the Automated Manifest System (AMS) involves the utilization of certain digital platforms specifically engineered to communicate with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These include:

  • The Automated Commercial Environment (ACE): This platform serves as the main reporting mechanism for imports and exports for the commercial sector and also helps the U.S. government in evaluating admissibility. This platform is primarily utilized for maritime or ground transport.
  • Air AMS: This distinct  system is catered towards air cargo, operated by CBP. For use, both carriers and freight forwarders must secure approval from CBP and invest in compliant software solutions.

In both systems, users are required to input data digitally. Be mindful, however, that these systems are typically suited for large-scale freight forwarders and carriers and might present significant technical and financial challenges for an SMB intending to operate independently.


When is the Deadline for Submitting Information to the Automated Manifest System?

If you are importing goods to the United States from outside the country, the time for providing cargo details to the Automated Manifest System (AMS) will depend on your mode of transport:

  • Air Freight: Under the Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) initiative, details about the shipment must be provided prior to the cargo being loaded onto the airplane.
  • Sea Freight: As per the U.S. Importer Security Filing regulations (also referred to as the “10+2” Rule), the necessary data related to the vessel and cargo is required to be submitted to the AMS system no less than 24 hours before the cargo is placed on the ship.


Components of Automated Manifest System Filing

There are many components that are involved in AMS filing; you should be aware of them to ensure compliance.

  • Detailed Description of the Goods: This involves a comprehensive explanation detailing the contents of the cargo.
  • Quantity of Goods: This is the total number of units or the volume of goods being shipped.
  • Weight of Goods: This relates to the total gross weight of the cargo shipment.
  • Origin and Destination of the Goods: This specifies where the cargo originates from and its intended destination.
  • Bill of Lading Number: This is the unique identification number given to each cargo consignment, aiding in tracking and record-keeping.
  • Vessel Name and Voyage Number: This involves the name of the vessel responsible for carrying the cargo and the specific voyage number associated with the shipment.
  • Importer of Record Number: This is typically the tax identification or the Employer Identification Number (EIN) assigned to the importer of record.
  • Country of Origin of the Goods: This identifies the country where the goods were manufactured or produced.
  • Harmonized System (HS) Code: A system of keeping names and numbers standardized across the world when classifying traded products. 
  • Carrier SCAC Code: Also known as Standard Carrier Alpha Codes (SCAC), these unique codes help in identifying transportation companies.
  • Scheduled Arrival Date: This is the projected date when the cargo is expected to arrive at its destination.
  • Port of Loading and Port of Discharge: These details include the ports where the cargo will be loaded and unloaded.

This information allows for accurate tracking, timely communication with authorities, and compliance with all applicable regulations.


What Are the Benefits of Using the Automated Manifest System (AMS)?

The AMS system offers a range of benefits, including:

  • Quicker Cargo Release: The system allows for electronic data interchange, facilitating faster clearance of goods.
  • Enhanced Accuracy: It reduces errors and discrepancies common with manual documentation.
  • Real-Time Tracking: It enables precise, real-time tracking of cargo, ensuring seamless logistics operations.


How the AMS System Improves the Efficiency of Cargo Transportation

The AMS system enhances the efficiency of cargo transportation by reducing the time taken for clearance processes and allowing for accurate real-time tracking of cargo as opposed to the older paper-based legacy system. It helps ensure compliance with all applicable customs regulations, reducing the risk of penalties and shipment delays.


Legal Requirements and Penalties

Not complying with AMS filing requirements could possibly result in penalties, delays, and, in some scenarios, seizure of the cargo. Respecting and adhering to the  AMS regulations is essential for smooth operations. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Automated Manifest System (AMS)


What is the Importance of AMS in International Shipping?

The Automated Manifest System (AMS) facilitates faster clearance of goods, accurate tracking of cargo, and compliance with customs regulations, thus ensuring a smooth shipping process.


Automated Manifest System (AMS) Definition

The Automated Manifest System (AMS) is a versatile notification system for managing cargo inventory and providing updates on cargo releases. The AMS system interacts directly with CBP, allowing for quicker processing of freight and import/export documentation, ensuring compliance with U.S. regulations.


How Does the AMS System Work?

The Automated Manifest System (AMS) is an integral part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trade processing, used by businesses of all sizes involved in the import of goods into the United States. This electronic system requires shippers (often through freight forwarders) to submit detailed information about their shipments, including descriptions, quantities, weights, and relevant codes, typically 24 hours before the cargo is loaded onto a vessel at a foreign port. Through this process, the CBP can conduct risk assessments and screenings, decide on inspections, and streamline the release or clearance of goods upon arrival at U.S. ports. 

The AMS streamlines the compliance and clearance process, reducing potential delays and contributing to a more predictable and efficient international trade operation.


How Does the AMS System Improve the Efficiency of Cargo Transportation?

The AMS system improves the efficiency of cargo transportation by reducing the time taken for clearance processes and allowing for accurate real-time tracking of cargo.


What If an SMB Handles AMS Filing Independently Without a Third-Party Service Provider?

In case an SMB doesn’t want to work with a third-party service provider and wishes to handle AMS submissions on its own, it will need to invest in the required AMS-compatible software designed to interface directly with CBP systems. This could potentially be a costly and technically complex undertaking, particularly for businesses new to international shipping.


What are the Legal Consequences of Incorrect AMS Filing?

Incorrect AMS filing can result in penalties, shipment delays, and potential seizure of the cargo by the authorities.



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