Pre-screening cargo virtually

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) works to ensure the security and prosperity of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada. In this section, learn how the CBSA tested cargo pre-screening to enhance border processing and security.

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Preclearing cargo versus pre-screening cargo virtually

Cargo preclearance: border services officers (BSOs) from an inspecting country, such as Canada, examine goods or people while stationed within a host country, such as the United States (U.S.). Preclearing cargo allows Canadian officers to complete the customs clearance process before goods or people enter Canada.

Virtual cargo pre-screening: BSOs within Canada view X-ray images of cargo before the goods arrive in Canada, as part of the risk-assessment process. All examinations and release of goods take place in Canada.

Cargo pre-screening pilots and proofs of concept, such as the ones described below, test operating procedures and help shape future and more complex operations like cargo preclearance.

Pre-screening pilots and proofs of concept

The CBSA conducted an initial pilot, from November 2017 until April 2019, to test cargo pre-screening processes in the U.S.

In 2022, the agency launched a second pre-screening proof of concept. This time, the proof of concept took place virtually from Canada.

Bi-national rail cargo pre-screening pilot: 2017

CBSA BSOs travelled to Rouses Point, New York, to work alongside United States Customs and Border Protection officers. The BSOs viewed X-ray images of northbound rail cargo before the trains entered Canada, noting any irregularities. The BSOs then returned to Canada to finish processing the goods.

The 2017 pilot demonstrated our commitment to testing processes that could benefit both pre-screening operations and future cargo preclearance operations in the U.S. The benefits and outcomes of this first pre-screening pilot included:

Virtual cargo pre-screening proof of concept:

From to , the CBSA and United Parcel Service Canada Ltd (UPS) ran a proof of concept to pre-screen cargo virtually.

BSOs located in Canada reviewed X-ray images of goods destined for Canada from a location in Europe, before the goods arrived in Canada. BSOs then used that information, along with other pre-arrival shipment data, to recommend release of the goods or referral for a physical examination once they arrived in Canada.

Virtual cargo pre-screening objectives

This proof of concept allowed us to:

Virtual cargo pre-screening benefits

The CBSA tested an additional tool for enhancing the risk assessment process for e-commerce shipments and modernizing our border. It was also an opportunity to strengthen and improve existing processes within our commercial programs.

The proof of concept:

Message to stakeholders

The preclearance framework is outlined in the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America (LRMA). Since officers working on the virtual cargo pre-screening proof of concept did not leave the "host country" (Canada), this initiative did not operate under the authority of the LRMA.

The CBSA is always looking for new and innovative ideas to modernize its business processes, while supporting its mandate. Through stakeholder engagement forums, such as the Border Commercial Consultative Committees, we receive feedback on existing programs and new concepts. UPS approached the CBSA with the idea to test a virtual cargo pre-screening process, which led to the proof of concept development and implementation in .

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