Industry leaders are anxious to hear more details of a planned customs inspection station in Tijuana that will for the first time allow Mexican and U.S. officials to screen shipments of fresh produce before they reach the U.S. border at Otay Mesa, Calif.
The facility could handle 200 trucks per day, said Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce. She attended a sneak peek of the facility in October and speculated the change in Mexico’s administration after an election may have set back the opening of the facility temporarily.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz. said the little-known pilot project near Otay Mesa may prove a valuable concept for other ports.
“I hope that if it works they extend that same sort of thinking to Nogales, which is a much bigger port of entry for fruits and vegetables,” he said.
No details are being released about the pilot project by U.S. officials.
“The project is still under development with the government of Mexico,” said Angelica De Cima, San Diego, Calif.-based spokeswoman for the Office of Field Operations with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, She referred questions about the project to Mexican officials. De Cima gave no estimated date when the facility will open.
According to Mexico’s Ministry of Finance, Mexico and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection signed an arrangement to implement a cargo pre-screening pilot. The program will focus on high-volume agricultural commodities with the goal of more efficient border movement, the statement said. The pilot program is scheduled to last 180 days, and may be extended with the mutual consent of CBP and SAT, according to the agreement.
Requests for additional information or questions regarding the participation in the pilot program should be directed to Luis Alfonso Torres, Administrator de la Aduana de Tijuana Baja California, at (664) 624-2230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mexican and U.S. officials won’t comment further until they are ready to unveil the facility, said Rudy Camacho, a former U.S. customs director in San Diego and currently a business consultant.
The facility, a few hundred yards south of the U.S. border at Otay Mesa, is already built, Camacho said.
“It’s a class-A facility with plenty of doors and a lot of floor space,” he said.
It features a secure road to the U.S. border, he said.
Camacho speculated that legal and international issues are being ironed out between the countries, in addition to decisions about user fees and types of commodities that will be inspected.
The project will be successful if it addresses the issues of security of the officers at the facility and attracts Mexican growers, shippers, importers and carriers that meet guidelines for CT-PAT (Customs Trade-Partnership Against Terrorism) and FAST — Free and Secure Trade programs.
“The bottom line is the value added,” he said. “Are they going to get through the process of exiting Mexico and entering the U.S. faster than they are today?”
Camacho said the facility is designed for time-sensitive cargo such as fresh produce, he said, allowing shipments to pass through the U.S. port with minimum delay, saving time and fuel. Strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers are among Mexican produce likely to be screened at the facility.
“I think it is a major advancement and this is an opportunity to do something in this business climate that helps all of the business players while at the same time enhancing security,” Camacho said.
The North County Times (San Diego) reported Jan. 3 that the facility was built by the Mexican government and is one of three pre-screening pilot projects in Mexico. Others will be in Nuevo Laredo, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez near Santa Teresa, N.M.