The Vessel Entrance and Clearance System (VECS) will be a complete digitization and automation of the Entrance and Clearance process. VECS will allow vessel masters, operators, and agents to submit certain vessel entry and clearance data and requests to CBP electronically, instead of submitting paper forms, as currently required by CBP regulations. Specifically, this VECS will allow participants to submit the data required on CBP Forms 26, 226, 1300, 1302, 1303, 1304, and 3171 electronically through VECS prior to arrival or departure from designated ports.
CBP will begin testing in Gulfport, MS. Upon completion of live environment testing there, CBP will then begin to rollout out VECS at subsequent ports during the course of the 2-year pilot test. As ports are added to the pilot, CBP HQ will work with local Field Offices and Ports to coordinate training for both CBP field personnel and vessel agents.
Vessel Agency Account
The Vessel Agency Account Federal Register Notice (FRN) will announce the new Vessel Agency Account type within ACE. The Vessel Agency account will allow vessel agents to log in to a web portal within ACE and be passed over to VECS. Each vessel agency will need to have a vessel agency top account within ACE, and each vessel agent will need to have their own user account/profile to access VECS. Anyone who wishes to participate in the pilot must sign up for and have a Vessel Agency Account in ACE. This will be spelled out in both FRNs. As soon as the Vessel Agency Account FRN is published (or soon thereafter) you will have the ability to sign up and there will not be a cutoff date. For more information about ACE Portal accounts and getting started with ACE, please visit www.cbp.gov/trade/automated/getting-started.
VECS and the Pilot
The Maritime Forms Automation VECS Test FRN will be the “VECS Pilot” and will outline the particulars of the pilot. We will start at a single, small, port to begin the pilot so we can do some initial testing of the live system, and then we will expand port by port until all seaports across the country are on the pilot. The pilot is expected to run for 2 years in order to get all agencies and ports onboard and to allow time for regulatory updates.
CBP will provide training to the port personnel AND to the vessel agents at each port as we expand. CBP will also be providing training materials to the vessel agents (and will also be made available on this page) and will have local or regional CBP subject matter experts to help with any questions. After the initial training, it will be up to the vessel agencies to train any new vessel agents, or ones who could not attend the training, utilizing the training materials provided and the local/regional subject matter experts.
Electronic vs Paper Filings
Since it will be a pilot and regulations will still allow for paper filing, CBP won’t be requiring each entrance and clearance to be filed through VECS, but it will be strongly encouraged. One of the reasons for this is that VECS is going to be an ever-growing system with new capabilities as the pilot expands and not all ports will be on the pilot in the early days. Some ports, or some filings, will still require paper until all ports and all functions are built-in.