BREAKING: Customs reconsidering cargo inspections at Red Hook

January 20, 2012 Helen Klein
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U.S. Customs officials are now said to be reconsidering theirplan to eliminate inspections at the Red Hook ContainerTerminal

Congressmember Michael Grimm announced, during a Fridayafternoon press conference outside the terminal at Van Brunt Streetand Hamilton Avenue, that he had spoken with the director of NewYork Field Operations for Customs and had been told that the plan -originally supposed to kick in on January 9 but put on hold for 90days — was being reevaluated.

They are not going to be sending anything remotely hazardous toStaten Island, so I feel better about the safety issue, Grimmannounced.

Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed that, notingin an email statement, Any changes to the Red Hook terminal willbe executed in a way that does not impact security.

An unresolved concern, however, is the potential economic impactemerging out of removing inspections from the terminal. Whilenothing has yet been decided, Grimm said that Customs was lookingseriously at the economic implications of its original plan.

There are over 700 jobs here, he stressed. We have to stayfocused on the way the federal government impacts the localcommunity. If they don’t do it right, they could put the containerterminal out of business.

That is something, Grimm said, that must be dealt with. I’mgoing to be working with Congressmember [Jerrold] Nadler andCustoms to get this resolved, Grimm said. Standing in front of theentrance to the terminal, he declared the plan of transportingcontainers over the Gowanus and Verrazano to Staten Island forinspection, obviously a non-starter for us, both because it couldimpact the viability of the port and because of the added trafficit would bring in its wake.

More trucks on the Gowanus and the Verrazano, he proclaimed.Over my dead body.

Given the support and advocacy from Grimm, CongressmemberJerrold Nadler, Senator Charles Schumer and other politicians,Michael Stamatis, president of the Red Hook Container Terminal,said that he was optimistic that the situation would be resolvedin a favorable manner for the terminal.

We have the right people supporting us, and they understand theissue, Stamatis told this paper. We’ve gotten their [Customs’]attention. They understand there is an issue they weren’t willingto address before and they now realize it has to be addressed. Ithink it is all being addressed at the highest level now.

The initial decision to move the inspections away from thecontainer port were made by Customs as a way of saving money,according to a statement released by the agency, which explainedthat the plan had been formulated by a working group…includingtrade stakeholders in anticipation of the December, 2011,expiration of the existing arrangements for inspections.

Among the benefits, according to Customs, are that moreexaminations would take place at fewer facilities, moreexpeditious process of containers requiring examination andreduced delays in cargo release and improved cost effectivenessfor the trade community.

But, Grimm, Stamatis and others said that removing inspectionsfrom the terminal – which would add $400 to $500 cost per containerfor transportation, as well as delay the release of goods – couldsound the death knell for the terminal, impacting Brooklynbusiness, the terminal’s employees, and nearby businesses that relyon an active terminal to thrive.

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