Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fresh Produce Imports Commence as Freight Forwarders and Customs Work with US Port

Cold Treatment Scheme Commences Whilst Battle to Win Back Lost Cargo Commences
Shipping News Feature

US – PERU – Back in July we told how a shift in attitude by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), in company with the US Department of Agriculture, would enable the Port of Miami to import fresh fruit from Peru which had been ‘cold treated’, which involves cooling the cargo prior to shipment to eliminate pests and disease. In the past, Peruvian products such as table grapes and blueberries, could only enter the US via certain north eastern ports, but now the new pilot scheme is under way and the first consignment of grapes is currently en route shipping in from South America and scheduled to arrive on the 1st December. Meanwhile freight forwarders and Customs officials are working together to make Miami a more viable transhipment hub once again.

The Cold Treatment Pilot programme, which sees the goods subjected to sustained refrigeration, has been welcomed by all stakeholders. Under the new pilot, grapes traveling to markets in Florida can be offloaded directly in Miami, increasing perishables shelf life, reducing trucking/transportation costs and lowering the carbon footprint of the product. The new programme and the exchange between Peru and PortMiami is a positive step for Peruvian growers and exporters, saving them time and money and the American side of the equation creates another plus with consumers benefitting from the faster, fresher arrival of goods. Bill Johnson, Director of PortMiami, commented:

“It is great to see that the combined efforts of the US and Peruvian governments have paid off. Thanks to the efficient processing of cargo at PortMiami, this produce will be able to reach up to 70% of the US population in four days or less. This opens up opportunities for both our countries and we look forward to increasing bi-lateral trade with Peru, and important trade partner.”

Meanwhile the Florida port has been ‘working feverishly’ to bring back transhipment to Miami, much of which has been lost to Panama, Freeport, and Kingston. Prior to 9/11 over 22% of freight moved at PortMiami was transhipment cargo but the heightened demands for security meant virtually every shipment underwent inspection. That figure has now fallen back to a more realistic one of under 5% according to port officials and Bill Johnson has requested that the CBP develop a pilot programme, ‘with a transhipment inspection protocol pilot for Port Miami'. 

The primary complaint is really one of unfair competition, Port Miami maintains that the CBP’s intensive examination of goods checking for intellectual property rights violations, and the immediate seizing of goods that are non-compliant (considering the goods are not actually at the point of final destination), is a much more stringent regime than is seen at alternative ports. The CBP have acknowledged the port’s concerns and the two are actively working together to resolve the situation and to achieve a solution acceptable to all parties and the CBP has joined a transhipment committee with specific goals.

Firstly a task force has been established to examine the problem, CBP having assigned a Customer Service Manager, Robert Martin, Chief of ATCET (anti-terrorism contraband enforcement teams), who will liaise with terminal operators to discuss delays and help facilitate the flow of legitimate cargo. Kenneth Haeffner, the Assistant Port Director of Trade for CBP will take on a new role in charge of ‘Outreach’ and has undertaken to work with the Florida Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association (FCBF) on an ‘In-Bond’ class to assure all stakeholders understand all in bond requirements, especially the Importer Security Filing (ISF) requirements as they relate to in-bonds.

Finally the terminals will provide CBP a list of all in transit merchandise, in advance, and CBP has promised to coordinate the review of in transit merchandise expeditiously (as CBP does for perishable goods). CBP will also coordinate physical exam efforts to assure goods are examined and released as swiftly as possible so the goods can make their next sailing.

Photo: Peruvian grapes awaiting harvest.