Advance Commercial Information Definition (ACI) is a project of the Canada Border Services Agency. Once completely implemented, ACI will require that all commercial cargo entering Canada be electronically registered with the Agency. The project's aim is to improve border security and efficiency.
In 2000, then-Minister of National Revenue Martin Cauchon introduced the objectives that would lead to ACI as part of the Customs Action Plan. After the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, the security benefits associated with the project took on a new importance. In the Canada-US Smart Border Declaration created in December of that year, then-Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley and United States Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge called for "a system to collaborate in identifying high risk goods while expediting the flow of low risk goods."(1).
The idea for ACI was based on the American Container Security Initiative (CSI) that created preclearance rules. With the CSI effectively posting Custom officers in foreign ports around the world, Canada was under significant pressure to introduce a similar plan or face the reality that CBP officers would be placed in Canadian ports. As this would be a very visible loss of Canadian sovereignty, the CBSA quickly came up with the ACI plan. ACI includes the following rules, which are very similar to the rules of the CSI.
Phase 1 of ACI came into effect April 19, 2004. Data on shipborne cargo must be transmitted to CBSA no later than 24 hours prior to the loading of the cargo. The data is available to Customs officials at each of Canada's major ports, and any anomalies can be investigated by mobile teams with secure, wireless access to the database. Sensors have also been installed to detect unusual radiation levels in cargo. Plans are underway to establish CBSA offices at major international ports, to permit earlier and easier processing.
Phase 2 saw these measures extended to air cargo, and ACI systems were installed in airports across Canada. This phase went into effect in July, 2006. ACI Phase 2 also expanded marine requirements to include shipments loaded in the United States.
Phase 3 implemented eManifest, which requires the electronic transmission of advance cargo and conveyance information from carriers for all highway and rail shipments. In addition, the electronic transmission of advance secondary data became required from freight forwarders and the advance importer data became a requirement from importers or their brokers.