Sixteen port authorities, airports and other local entities in seven
states have been selected to participate in a program under which they
can reimburse U.S. Customs and Border Protection for extra services to
maintain the fluidity of cargo and passengers passing through their
facilities, the agency announced this week.
Establishing partnerships with local governments and private firms
willing to pay for overtime or extra manpower during regular shifts to
speed up processing at peak times is part of CBP's Resource Optimization
"We applied because we think it provides an added value to our
customers. It's another reason that people can look at Port Everglades
to move their cargo or cruise passengers because there is this
relationship with Customs and Border Protection that other ports don’t
have," Deputy Port Director Glenn Wiltshire said in an interview.
Last year, under new authority from Congress, Customs launched a
five-year pilot program in five locations — including the Miami, Houston
and Dallas/Fort Worth airports and El Paso, Texas — for reimbursable
services. The 2014 congressional appropriation expands CBP's authority
to enter into reimbursement agreements to five airports per year and an
unlimited number of land and sea ports of entry. Reimbursements can
cover customs, agricultural processing, security inspections and
The program is intended to give the agency and local communities the
flexibility to address fluctuations in volume and expedite commercial
and passenger traffic. In the first seven months of the program, CBP was
able to provide an additional 9,000 CBP officer assignments and open
primary lanes and booths for 24,000 more hours at the airports and land
ports, the agency said.
The city of El Paso, since late January, has already invested more
than $400,000 for almost 3,500 hours of overtime for officers at its
three international bridges with Mexico, Mayor Oscar Leseer testified at
a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on July 16. Wait times
at the bridges have decreased even though traffic volumes are up 18
percent for pedestrians, 30 percent for passenger vehicles and 3 percent
for trucks, compared to the same period last year.
Among the three participating airports, the added staffing and
supplementary lane openings, in conjunction with the deployment of more
automated kiosks under the Global Entry program, have helped decrease
wait times by an average of almost 30 percent while traveler volume
increased about 7 percent over last year, CBP said.
The entities tentatively selected for the partnership program are:
- Los Angeles World Airports
- San Francisco International Airport
- Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
- McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
- Denver International Airport
- Penn Terminals, Inc. (Port of Philadelphia)
- Independent Container Line (Port of Philadelphia)
- Network Shipping, Ltd. (Philadelphia)
- Greenwich Terminals (Port of Philadelphia)
- Gloucester Terminals (Port of Philadelphia)
- Turbana Corp. (Port of Philadelphia)
- Interoceanica Agency Inc. (Philadelphia)
- Diamond State Port Corp. (Port of Wilmington, Del.)
- Port of Houston Authority
- Broward County, Fla. (Port Everglades)
- South Texas Assets Consortium (also participating in the initial pilot program)
The South Texas Assets Consortium re-applied because the new 2014 authority from Congress expanded reimbursable services beyond just customs and immigration-related services.
Customs will finalize agreements laying out service and payment terms
by the end of the year, spokesperson Jennifer Evanitsky said.
Applicants were selected on factors such as the impact on current CBP
operations, funding reliability, community concerns, health and safety,
economic benefits and ease of implementation.
Port Everglades signed up for the program on behalf of its users so
they could take advantage of additional services as needed, Wiltshire
"We saw it as an opportunity to provide surge resources" that are paid for locally and deployed locally, he said.
A cruise ship, for example, that arrives a bit late and wants to
stick to its schedule may need more officers than CBP originally planned
to provide to process passengers exiting the vessel and could request
extra staffing. The program could also prove beneficial in a cargo
scenario where a shipment of perishables arrives on a container ship,
but can't exit the port as quickly as possible because the radiation
portal monitors are not staffed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Wiltshire said the port authority envisions being responsible for
reimbursing CBP and then billing its customers for the fees, but added
those types of details remain to be worked out.