Last week in Miami, the Commercial Operations Advisory Committee, or COAC, put forth a series of recommendations to Customs and Border Protection.  COAC meets quarterly and is comprised of members of the trade representing importers, exporters, trade associations, Customs brokers and others.  Members of the Committee are appointed to two-year terms.

The present construct of licensing and permitting requirements for CBP is such that for each city in which a Customs broker has a physical office location, there is a regulatory requirement that a licensed broker be in that office and their license qualifies that office for “responsible supervision and control”.

This guy couldn’t play well with others and found himself the last one standing when he was done.

As CBP moves in the next several years to changing their processing and work flow using the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, many have questioned whether or not this local permitting requirement remains, especially in the environment of CEE’s, RLF and centralized processing by many large filers.

COAC Recommendations

The recommendations COAC made are thus:

  1. COAC recommends that CBP enable brokers to operate through a single, national permit, eliminating the current district permitting requirement.   COAC understands that CBP must modernize its permitting framework for Customs brokers to align broker permitting with the challenges and opportunities of 21st century electronic entry processing through such programs such as Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), Remote Location Filing (RLF), the Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) and eBonds.  
  2. COAC recommends that CBP engage the COAC and all stakeholders as soon as possible to review the existing Customs broker management process, related  informed compliance publications and broker handbooks to ensure a modern, national broker management process is developed and implemented prior to CBP moving forward with the proposed change in the broker national permitting framework.  COAC recognizes that today’s current broker management process does not support a new national permitting framework. 
  3. COAC recommends that the new national permit framework include requirements that Customs brokerage firms employ an adequate number of licensed brokers to ensure responsible supervision and control over their Customs business and that CBP work with the appropriate stakeholder groups to define these new supervision and control requirements and provide the COAC an opportunity to comment on any new framework before implementation.  COAC understands the value the Customs broker license brings to CBP and the importing community. 

(We have posted the full report HERE.)

A major concern to the Customs brokerage community is the question of the value of the broker’s license.  Donna Mullins of Mullins International Solutions has waged a one woman campaign to “See a broker, save a broker,” and it has generated a tremendous amount of interest.  Becoming a licensed broker is a rigorous exercise through an examination with a perpetually sub-10% (or lower) passing rate, plus passing a background check after that to determine an applicant’s fitness.  Brokers are expected to be key partners with CBP in matters of security, revenue protection and import safety, and any steps backward in diminishing that, or watering it down, would be detrimental to CBP’s wider trade initiatives.

In a previous post about this issue, there were some very thoughtful comments made.  The balancing act which CBP must undertake and work hand-in-hand with the trade is adequately determining, and possibly quantifying, what level of responsible supervision is required.  Is in ‘x’ brokers to ‘y’ staff?  Is it something else?  Both CBP and industry stakeholders are going to be working together in the coming months to come up with the answer.

If you have strong feelings about it one way or the other, we suggest that you contact both the NCBFAA at or Donna Mullins at and share your opinions on the matter.

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