U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a pilot program allowing seaplane pilots to clear U.S. Customs remotely at two locations in Minnesota, using an app downloaded to a cellphone or tablet.
Pilots can use the Reporting Offsite Arrival—Mobile (ROAM) app to clear U.S. Customs by video conference at Scott’s Seaplane Base on Crane Lake, and at the Shagawa Lake Seaplane base in Ely. Pilots must file a flight plan using the electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), but the ROAM app can be used to close the flight plan, said Area Port Director Jason Schmelz.
“AOPA applauds U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s innovative approach to securing our borders and facilitating lawful trade and travel using advanced technologies,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We believe a risk-based program that streamlines the process will benefit local economies and general aviation.”
The pilot program for boaters, launched last August and expanded to Crane Lake in February 2018, “addresses a pressing issue for border waters that depend heavily on tourism,” CBP said in a news release. “Anglers and outdoorsmen from around the country travel to these border waters with their families to enjoy fishing and other outdoor activities. Oftentimes these groups travel into the province of Ontario, Canada, which prompts border security checks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon return.”
As the program gets going for seaplanes, CBP will have an officer available at the two approved locations to provide assistance to pilots. The two bases also will have a tablet available in case a pilot does not have an internet-capable device. CBP also will seek feedback from users of the app, for possible future upgrades.
“From an officer standpoint this is much-needed technology,” Schmelz said. “From the clarity of the video to the ease of use for the traveler, ROAM has strengthened border security in these remote areas while facilitating legitimate travel and trade.”
CBP processed 616 floatplanes on Crane Lake last year, and 750 in 2016, Schmelz said.
AOPA is working with CBP and the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association to conduct outreach about the system to the pilot community.
“This is one step closer to a general aviation trusted-operator program that AOPA has been advocating for,” said Nobuyo Sakata, AOPA director of aviation security.
CBP will present information on the ROAM app at the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association’s spring safety seminar May 18 through 20.
"The Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association appreciates CBP's efforts to improve the experience crossing the border for our members, as well as the willingness to engage at our yearly safety seminar to provide demonstrations and listen to feedback on the new system," said Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association President Steve Guetter.