The International Trade Blog Export Compliance
The Automated Export System (AES) Downtime Policy
On: January 24, 2023 | By: David Noah | 5 min. read
When exporting goods valued at more than $2,500 per Schedule B number to anywhere other than Canada, companies usually must file their export information electronically to the Automated Export System (AES) through the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) prior to the goods leaving the country.
But what if AES or ACE is not working? That's when the AES Downtime Policy may be activated, and you can still ship if you meet certain conditions and if you follow the specific procedures.
What Is the Automated Export System?
If you're reading this blog post, you probably have at least a basic understanding of AES, including when you need to file, who needs to do the filing and what data you need to include with your filing. If you need more details about any of these topics, review our free guide, Filing Your Export Shipment through the Automated Export System.
For this article about the AES Downtime Policy, there are some basic terms and procedures that are important to understand.
Once you have successfully submitted the electronic export information (EEI) to AES, you will receive an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) that you use as proof of your filing. You need to include the ITN on your bills of lading and Shipper's Letter of Instruction (SLI), so your forwarder and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) know you've filed.
If AES or ACE is not working, you obviously can't generate an ITN. That's where the AES Downtime Policy comes into play.
United States Munitions List
Most products being exported from the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which mean they are controlled by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Items made for military use typically fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Control (DDTC). These items are regulated under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and appear on the U.S. Munitions List (USML).
In simple terms, the USML is a list of defense articles and services that are specifically designed, developed, configured, adapted or modified for a military application and don't have a predominant civil application or civil performance equivalent; have significant military or intelligence applicability; and could be classified as a defense article or defense service.
Why does this matter? If your item appears on the USML and is controlled by ITAR, you are not able to ship it under the AES Downtime Policy. It's very important that you understand whether your product(s) appear on the USML. Chapter five of our Export Procedures and Documentation guide explains how to make this determination.
Filing Citations, Exemptions and Exclusions
The U.S. Foreign Trade Regulations (FTR) requires a notation on the commercial loading document listing the ITN from the successful EEI filing or a citation why a filing was not done. The commercial loading document is usually the international bill of lading, but most exporters also typically include it on their SLI if they generate one. There are three types of notations:
1. Proof of Filing Citation
If you or your agent submitted the EEI to AES, you should include a Proof of Filing Citation, which is usually formatted as "AES ITN: [insert ITN here]." The ITN starts with the letter "X" followed by the year, month and day of the filing plus six digits assigned by AESDirect.
2. Exemption Citation
If you are not required to file, e.g. your shipment's final destination is Canada, it is valued at $2,500 or less per Schedule B, or one of the other exemptions found in Sections 30.36 through Sections 30.40 of the FTR, you must list the applicable exemption on your paperwork. For example, if your shipment is going from the U.S. to Canada, you would include "NOEEI 30.36" on your bill of lading and SLI.
Please note: These exemptions don't always apply. Please refer to the Filing Your Export Shipments through the Automated Export System guide for a more complete explanation.
3. AES Downtime Citation
If the U.S. Census Bureau and CBP have activated the AES Downtime Policy and if your product does not appear on the USML, you can continue with your export shipment by using the phrase "AESDOWN" followed by your filer ID and the date of export on your paperwork. But you're not completely off the hook. You must submit all the shipment data to AES once the downtime policy has been deactivated.
Using the AES Downtime Policy
I know it's bad form to bury the most important part of a blog post in the 15th paragraph, but here it is: You may only use the AES Downtime Policy if it has been activated by Census and CBP and if your goods qualify.
You will receive email notification from Census whenever the downtime policy has been activated, and it doesn't happen very often. Likewise, you will be notified that the policy has been activated if you attempt to log in to AESDirect to submit a filing.
If you haven't received notification that the AES Downtime Policy has been activated, do not attempt to use it.
You may not use it if your internet connection is not working or you've lost power. You may not use it if the ACE Portal is slow. You may not use it if your AES filing software doesn't work. (If you're using Shipping Solutions software to file through AES, give us a call at (651) 905-1727, and we'll gladly help you out!)
AES Downtime Policy Is Deactivated
Once the ACE Portal and AESDirect are working again, Census and CBP will send an email notice that the downtime policy has been deactivated. At that point, you should resume filing your EEI through the ACE portal for all new export shipments.
You also have 14 days to submit your shipments that occurred during the downtime policy. According to CBP's publication Automated Export System Downtime Guidelines, you should ignore the "Shipments Reported Late" error messages for these backlogged transactions.
If you have questions about the AES Downtime Policy, you can reach out to the Census Bureau's Trade Data Collection Branch at (800) 549-0595, option 1, or email@example.com.
For more information about an easier way to file through AES, request a free demo of the Shipping Solutions export documentation and compliance software. There's no obligation.
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This article was first published in June 2022 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.
About the Author: David Noah
David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.