Georgia ports earns certification to streamline operations
On Aug. 1, 2023, the Georgia Ports Authority obtained certification from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for all GPA terminals to unload cargo from vessels prior to being cleared by CBP.
The Advanced Qualified Unloading Approval Lane (AQUA) benefit certification, known as ‘Fast Lane’, enables faster unloading of ships, and shortens port stays, thus saving time and money for ocean carriers and supply chains.
To participate in AQUA, ocean carriers must be enrolled in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) program, be in good standing with CBP and stipulate AQUA Lane status when they transmit their manifest to the U.S. Customs prior to arriving in a U.S. port.
Vessels must still obtain Customs clearance, but AQUA Lane allows port operations to start immediately with unloading and loading cargo – while the clearance process is underway. Crewmembers will still need to await normal clearance from CBP before disembarking.
“GPA works closely with our customers and our CBP partners to find ways to safely improve supply chain flow and reduce port costs for customers. Ocean carriers calling our facilities are looking for ways to make their port stay more productive and improve their end-to-end supply chain service for customers,” says GPA Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy. “AQUA Lane brings more certainty to supply chain velocity with faster cargo operations on inbound vessels.”
In the past, vessels had to wait for U.S. Customs to clear cargo and crew prior to the start of cargo operations. The duration of the clearance process is unpredictable – which often results in port labor waiting dockside to start operations.
The Port of Savannah, one of Georgia’s main deep water ports, was the top U.S. port for ag exports in 2020.
“AQUA Lane is an important step that benefits the entire supply chain and reduces time and cost,” adds McCarthy.
Georgia Ports Authority has been enrolled in the CTPAT program since 2003.