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  3. AES: An Introduction

AES: An Introduction

An Introduction to Automated Export System

Before AES, the export system was paper-bound; expensive, labor intensive, error prone. AES uses proven technology in a new way to address a significant problem with the export process. It will contribute to a re-engineering of the way U.S. exports are accomplished.  The Automated Export System (AES) is a joint venture between CBP, the Foreign Trade Division of the Bureau of the Census (Commerce), the Bureau of Industry and Security (Commerce), the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (State), other federal agencies, and the export trade community.

It is the central point through which export shipment data required by multiple agencies is filed electronically to CBP, using the efficiencies of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). AES provides an alternative to filing paper Electronic Export Information (EEI). Export information is collected electronically and edited immediately, and errors are detected and corrected at the time of filing. AES is a nationwide system operational at all ports and for all methods of transportation. It was designed to assure compliance with and enforcement of laws relating to exporting, improve trade statistics, reduce duplicate reporting to multiple agencies, and improve customer service.


During AES development, a Trade Resource Group convened regularly. To ensure that all voices were heard, the group was comprised of large and small exporters, carriers, freight forwarders, port authorities, and non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCC). At the trade's request, separate coalitions for exporters and software vendors were formed.

At the start, position papers were collected from trade associations to determine what AES data requirements and automation capabilities should be included in AES. Public meetings were held around the country and comments were collected at each meeting in order to receive feedback from the trade community. This partnership with the trade continues as AES evolves. In 1998, Interest-Based Negotiations between the government and the trade generated enhancements to AES which provides filing options for exporters and their agents.

AES was implemented in phases. Phase I began July 1995 with participation at five vessel ports - Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Houston, and Los Angeles/Long Beach. During Phase I, the participating companies were required to dual report their exports, i.e., the participant filed both paper and electronic versions of the Electronic Export Information. This allowed Census to evaluate the integrity of the electronic data received. As a result of the positive evaluation of Phase I, completed in June 1996, the decision was made to expand AES to all vessel ports on October 1, 1996. In addition to expanding to all vessel ports, the requirement for dual reporting was removed. In July 1997, AES expanded to receive air and overland commodity data as well as all commodity data for vessel shipments from all ports.

How AES Works

The export process begins when the exporter decides to export merchandise. The exporter or the authorized agent makes shipping arrangements (booking) with the carrier. The exporter or the authorized agent transmits the commodity (EEI) information using AES. This information can come directly from the exporter or the authorized agent or through a service center or port authority. AES validates the data against editing tables and U.S. Government agency requirement files and generates a confirmation message or error messages back to the filer. If the carrier is participating in the Vessel Transportation Module the carrier transmits the Receipt of Booking message when the booked cargo is received and the departure message following the actual departure of the vessel. Within ten calendar days after departure, the carrier will transmit the entire export manifest electronically using AES. AES also validates the transportation data then generates either a confirmation message or an error message. Any errors messages generated by AES must be corrected and the corrections transmitted to AES.

Benefits of AES

Whatever aspect of the export community you represent - exporter, carrier, freight forwarder, port authority, service center, non-vessel operating common carrier, consolidator - AES has advantages for you.

Ensure Your Export Compliance. The AES, with its sophisticated editing system - and your subsequent corrections, ensures your compliance with current U.S. export reporting requirements. The system returns an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) as confirmation that you successfully filed your export documentation.

Correct Errors as They Occur. AES provides immediate feedback to the filer when data is omitted or incorrect. AES allows you to correct errors at any point in time.

Decrease Your Costs. Eliminate the cost of corrections with up-front data edits. Eliminate the costly delays of paper handling. Eliminate duplicate reporting.

There are potential large savings inherent in moving from a paper-based, data entry-intensive system to a single point of electronic data entry. Significant savings can be realized when the burden of keying multiple documents for each transaction, and/or repeated keying to/from paper environment and to/from electronic media and back, are greatly reduced. One carrier, who has been an AES participant since September 1995, researched their cost savings in terms of man-hours for data entry, couriers and messengers. According to a company spokesman, they anticipate future savings upwards of $2 million per year once most of their customers report through AES.

Eliminate Paper Review of Licenses Against Shipments. The interface with the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security and the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls electronically validates data on export shipments against previously-approved licenses and transmits the transaction to the appropriate Partnership Agency.

Keep in Step With the Global Shift to EDI. AES is in line with the NAFTA and GATT agreements. AES export certification could start the 60-day clock for presentation of evidence of duty payment to another NAFTA country. This will make it easier to do business in multiple countries.

Provide a Tool for Evaluating and Measuring Potential Markets. Accurate and timely export statistics from accurate trade data will help your business stay ahead in the global trade market.

A Partnership of Agencies

AES is a conduit through which required export shipment information reaches the appropriate agency.  The Bureau of the Census extracts AES data to compile and publish export trade statistics. Our goal is to eliminate manual processing and paper review of the EEI by providing accurate data, electronically, to be used for analytical and statistical reporting.

AES checks dual-use shipments against licenses approved by the Bureau of Industry and Security and forwards the data to that agency.

Similarly, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls utilizes the AES partnership agency interface to validate outbound munitions shipments against previously approved licenses and transmit the data to that agency.

We are continuing to create partnerships with other agencies for the future phases of AES.

AES Automation Partners
Exporters (USPPI)BrokersBureau of Industry and Security
Freight ForwardersService CentersDirectorate of Defense Trade Controls
CarriersPort AuthoritiesBureau of the Census
NVOCC'sSoftware Vendors 


AES was built for flexibility. It uses standard technology available to both large and small businesses.

AES offers options for transmitting export shipment data. You have the choice of using:

  • Software developed by the user.
  • Software purchased from a vendor.
  • A Value Added Network (VAN) electronic mailbox.
  • The facilities of a port authority or service center.
  • AESDirect, a free internet application supported by the Bureau of the Census.
  • List of Service Centers and Software Vendors

You can communicate with AES using any of the following formats:

  • ANSI X.12
  • CBP proprietary formats

Current ABI and AMS participants can use their existing mainframe connections for AES.

CBP and Census support AES participants by providing user assistance.

AESDirect, a free internet application, supported by the Census Bureau, came on-line in October 1999. For more information on AESDirect.

Trade & Technology Coming Together

AES is trade and technology coming together because trade and technology belong together.  Manual processes are being replaced by automation in all aspects of life - in today's world automation is the norm, not the exception. AES is the tool that is keeping the export industry in step with the Information Age. AES offers you a chance to be competitive in today's global economy, to join the movement toward a global EDI climate, and to put technology to work for you.

Getting Started

When you decide to join AES send a Letter of Intent (or Simple Letter of Intent) to Census.

Upon receipt of the letter, a CBP Client Representative and a Census Client Representative will be assigned to serve as your technical advisor during development, testing and implementation.

This concludes the tour. We would like to thank you for taking the time to learn about AES. Again, we encourage you to sign our Guest Book before leaving the AES Web site.

For more information on AES you can call the AES toll-free Answerline at 1-800-549-0595 or send an e-mail to askAES@census.gov.

  • Last Modified: May 24, 2022