A look into the AES Downtime Policy

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By: Rosanna Torres

The Inside Scoop

As it is with all technology, there is always a possibility for system interruption. Although we have dedicated people working continuously behind the scenes maintaining the system, what can I say? Even the Titanic was built to be “unsinkable”. In case the Automated Export System (AES) or AESDirect is inoperable, the U.S Census Bureau and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agreed to a contingency plan, the AES Downtime Policy, which allows businesses to continue their daily activities without compromising the security of our nation’s borders and the integrity of valuable export statistics.

The AES Downtime Policy guidelines provide uniform procedures for the processing of Electronic Export Information (EEI) when the AES is unavailable for transmission.

What the Guidelines Say

“All possible precautions have been taken to minimize downtime of the AES. However, occasionally downtime may be experienced due to routine and/or unscheduled maintenance of AES performed by the CBP, Office of Information Technology. Also, downtime can be caused by damage to the National mainframe computer by natural disaster, war, civil disturbance, or catastrophic breakdown…”

When this is the case, the AES Downtime Citation may be used on the loading documents in lieu of an AES Internal Transaction Number (ITN). This consists of the phrase AESDOWN, your individual company’s Filer ID, followed by the date.

AESDowntime Citation: AESDOWNFiler ID Date of Export (MM/DD/YYYY)

When To Use…When NOT To Use

Yes, like I said, this policy should only be used when the AES Mainframe or the AESDirect program is unavailable for transmission for a specified period of time and the Downtime Policy has been officially enacted. Now, say you’re trying to file a shipment and you do not receive a response within 30 minutes? Do you use the Downtime Citation? NO. This also means that if you are having problems connecting to the Internet, if your company lost power, or if you are receiving transmissions errors, you may NOT use the AES Downtime Policy.

In the event of an AES or an AESDirect outage that qualifies for the Downtime Policy, a nationwide broadcast message will be issued by the U.S. Census Bureau to the entire trade community, including all ports of export. AESDirect users will see a notification upon login as well.

Under no circumstances should controlled shipments, whether regulated by the State Department or other export licensing agency, leave the country without a valid ITN.

Stay away from convenient misconceptions

Use this chart to determine when you may use the AES Downtime Policy

Downtime Policy chart

Be proactive about the future

Since we cannot anticipate when an unscheduled AES Outage might occur, we encourage your company to have a contingency plan in place. So in the case an outage does occur,we strongly recommend the following so there is minimal impact on your daily business transactions.

Know a Freight Forwarder! It is a good idea to build a relationship with a Freight Forwarder if your system goes down. They can file EEI on your behalf in a time-pressing situation.

Have an AESDirect Account! If you do not use AESDirect as method of filing EEI, it is a good idea to create an account in the case of a disruption to your company’s transmissions to the AES.Why not? It’s free to have one!

Keep a log! Once the AES is restored, all the EEI transactions for shipments that moved under the AES Downtime Policy must be filed to the AES. It is easier to file for these shipments if you keep a log of the shipments that need to be filed.


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23 Responses to A look into the AES Downtime Policy

  1. Kim says:

    I have read an understand the AES Downtime Policyand cannot use the AESDowntime Citation but we are seeing serious problems on Friday afternoon’s of it taking close to over an hour at times to get our ITN. I spoke to someone about it and was told AES is aware of the problem and are working on resolving it. I was told too many users were filing AES at the same time and it was just too much traffic for their system to handle. Is this true? And do you know if or when they will have this issue resolved?

  2. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    You are correct. Slow responses could be due to the amount of shipments being processed by AES at a given time. Though we are working on the system to improve its performance, we encourage you to file for your export shipments ahead of time. This is a best practice many companies follow to ensure timely responses from AES.

  3. Carlos Ham says:

    When the downtime is over, for example like on 08/12 there was an outage at AES central so downtime policy could be used, today we are informed that the system is back on line, and that yesterday EEI’s can be filed, what date should we use? the EEI were made yesterday in the AESpclink program and saved, should we update the date?
    thanks and great article!!!

  4. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    Thanks Carlos. To make sure your EEI reflects true information as to how the shipment was exported, indicate the date the shipment was exported. Be advised that a Compliance Alert is triggered when the date of filing is after the date of export. This alert is automatically triggered by the AES and cannot be changed. All AESDirect filers who receive a Compliance Alert for shipments exported under the Downtime Policy should keep a copy of the AES Downtime Broadcast, issued on 08/12/2010, along with the ITN(s).

  5. Ed Boyst says:

    what is the phone number for port 1108 philadelphia international airport.

  6. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    All contact information for CBP Ports are located at: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/

  7. Julia says:

    What SED Filing option should I choose when making my shipping label? Do I need to enter the AESDOWNTIME (my filer ID) and date into the filing options of UPS?

  8. Kristin Fowler says:

    I have filed on several shipments this morning and have not received ITN numbers for any of these shipments. Will I have to re-file?

  9. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    @ Julia – Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about the shipping labels.
    In cases like this, I would suggest creating a back-up AESDirect Account. You can write the Downtime citation on the loading documents manually and once the system is back up, you can file through the AESDirect account.

    @Kristen Fowler-

    Anything submitted to AESDirect during the outage will be processed once the system is back up.

  10. Esmeralda says:

    When the downtime is over?? 3/25/13 is been down all day long 🙁

  11. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    @ Esmeralda – We have all of our developers looking into the issue, but we don’t have an estimated timeframe yet. We never anticipated it lasting this long. We will send a message once the system comes back up. Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

  12. Erin says:

    How do we enter in an AES ITN number for DHL? It will not take the Downtime statement.

  13. Daydream says:

    Shall I assume that the downtime policy has been enacted? How do I determine if the policy is active or not?

  14. Leslie says:


    I am an AES Direct Filer, I have several shipments to file tomorrow 3/26. In the event the system is still down what is my filer ID? Is this my companies EIN#?

  15. Leslie says:

    I have one shipment to file tomorrow that departs on the rail from Detroit and exits from Montreal Canada port. Due to the requirements for rail loading will they allow my shipment to exit US into Canada on the rail with out ITN and use AESDOWN instead?

  16. Elisa says:

    I am not sure how to figure out what my port would be and who I need to contact. The directions a unclear as how to procced once we contact them. Any insight would be helpful, thank you.

  17. jesus says:

    What if they port does not want to accept the AES downtime policy, i called em all day today and they only transfer me everywhere no one has a clue of what theyre doing and i have cargos ready to be exported.

  18. Stephanie says:

    AES still down…question : when using the AES Down why do we need to contact the port from which it will be exporting? and also, do we need to re-file once the system is back up? Thanks

  19. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    Thanks for all your comments! I will try to respond as best I can. Let me know if you need anything else.

    @Erin – You can manually write the citation on the commercial documentation.

    @Daydream- AES sends a nationwide email to notify you when the Downtime Policy is in effect and when it is deactivated. To subscribe, go to: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCENSUS/subscriber/new?category%20id=%20USCENSUS_C15

    @Leslie – Yes, your filer ID is your Employer Identification Number. In some cases, this can also be a Duns and Bradstreet Number. You can use the Downtime Policy until you receive notice that it has been deactivated.

    @ Elisa- All contact information for CBP Ports is found at: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/

    @ Jesus – I would suggest that you provide them a copy of the Broadcast Message that was sent.

    @Stephanie – This is done to help you avoid issues at the Port. Yes, you are required to obtain an AES ITN once the system is back up.

  20. Patti says:

    I had a shipment pending during the outage. It did not process when the system came back up. It was rejected. It now has a rejected/fatal status. I am not able to delete it. How do I resolve this?

  21. Global Reach Rosanna says:

    @ Patti – If a shipment is submitted more than once (whether it was accidentally or not), AES generates the Fatal Error 075 “Shipment On File- Action Not Allowed”.
    In cases like this, you want to resubmit the shipment under a new Shipment Reference Number in order to receive an ITN.
    Then, you can email us the information regarding the rejected shipment. Include the original shipment reference number and the new ITN.
    Send to: ftd.aes.fatal.reports@census.gov

  22. Anthony Bean says:

    The language in eCFR 30.7(b) excludes the AES downtime filing citation from being required on the bill of lading, etc.

    The AES downtime filing citation is listed as one of three options that note no filing is required prior to export.

    However, the AES downtime filing citation is not listed as required to appear on the bill of lading.

    …”The proof of filing citation will identify that the export information has been accepted as transmitted. The postdeparture filing citation, AES downtime filing citation, or exemption legend will identify that no filing is required prior to export.
    The proof of filing citations, postdeparture filing citations, or exemption legends shall appear on the bill of lading, air waybill or other commercial loading documentation and shall be clearly visible.”…

    • Global Reach Shannon says:

      @Anthony: The AES downtime filing citation is listed in Section 30.7(b), “Such presentation shall be without material change or amendment of the proof of filing citation, postdeparture filing citation, AES downtime filing citation, or exemption legend as provided to the carrier by the USPPI or authorized agent. The proof of filing citation will identify that the export information has been accepted as transmitted. The postdeparture filing citation, AES downtime filing citation, or exemption legend will identify that no filing is required prior to export.” It is our interpretation that the means in which the AES downtime filing citation is presented by the carrier is on the bill of lading, air waybill, or other commercial loading documents.

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