Importers express relief after hearing about a delay to proposed rules requiring the scanning of all containers prior to shipment to the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security has delayed for two years rules requiring shippers to security screen all cargo containers entering the U.S. before departure, according to media reports.
For Ira Greenstein, owner of Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based Direct Source Marketing, which imports table grapes and stone fruit from Chile and Peru, such regulations could create additional delays in an already overtaxed system.
Greenstein said shipments can be delayed up to seven days, depending on container volume, ahead of additional scanning at the origin.
There are no standards for container release, he said.
Such delays are critical as the grower-exporters can often lose money because of the timing it takes to send fruit to the market, Greenstein said.
“A grower could miss out on $2 (a box) in the selling price just because of timing,” he said. “What potentially could be more extensive inspections could add to a system already somewhat challenged. Changing the existing format of inspections on inbound containers, we could potentially look at more delays than we’re already dealing with. This poses a real problem for the industry.”
Yonkers, N.Y.-based Jac Vandenberg Inc., imports 160 million pounds of fruit a year from a dozen countries in the Southern Hemisphere, Africa and Europe, including Mexico and New Zealand.
David Schiro, president, said shippers provide sufficient shipping information, including packing lists and names of growers.
“There are enough delays already,” he said. “The information our supplies have to give U.S. Customs is extensive and detailed. As importers, there’s not much we can do so we would just have to live with whatever they decide. What’s unfortunate is that sometimes, they (the regulators) do not have all their ducks in the rules. They often set up all the rules and regulations and then find the rules aren’t workable.”
Nick Pacia, co-owner and vice president of New York-based A.J. Trucco Inc., said such rules could harm trade.
“I think it would be a big mistake to implement these rules because it would have detrimental effects not only on imports in the produce industry, but on the consumer,” he said. “These rules would create a backlog and it would take much longer for containers to be released. This would have a tremendous effect on prices for the consumer and on the overall economy in general.”
Schiro said such rulemaking discussions often incur years of industry discussion before materializing.
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Delaware), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, recently suggested scanning containers through available technology would negatively affect trade capacity and cargo flow, according to media reports.