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U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers discuss strategies for searching arriving cargo. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs & Border Protection)

U.S. Customs & Border Protection is in the midst of a trial program that uses smartphone technology to enable the release of inspected cargo on site and in real time.

The agency announced the pilot program in September.

Prior to the implementation of the program, CBP officers and agriculture specialists conducted inspections and the subsequent release of cargo was delayed until field personnel returned to the office site to enter inspection results into CBP data systems.

Enforcement Link to Mobile Operations-Cargo, being referred to as ELMOcargo, accesses cargo targeting data and permits field personnel to release the cargo in real-time at the conclusion of the inspection. ELMOcargo significantly decreases the time an importer has to wait for cargo that has been cleared.

ELMOcargo is being piloted at Port Everglades, FL, which is the 12th busiest sea container port in the United States.

In a press release dated Sept. 14, Vernon Foret, director of the Miami Field Office, Office of Field Operations for the U.S. Customs & Boarder Protection, said, “This new technology will allow our officers to record cargo inspection results and clear the container for release faster, improving cargo-cycle time while continuing to secure our nation’s borders and beyond.”

ELMOcargo leverages CBP’s success with Automated Targeting System-Mobile, known as ATSm. Following the Christmas 2009 attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, CBP developed ATSm for Immigration Advisory Program, or IAP, officers working at foreign airports. Working in close partnership with subject matter experts, the Office of Information & Technology developed ATSm to deliver targeting data to the IAP officers and allow for the reporting of inspection results.

ATSm evolved to United States border operations with the introduction of a scanning peripheral that attaches to the smartphone, allowing CBP officers and border patrol agents to scan the machine-readable zone on travel documents and access CBP enforcement systems.

Since its introduction in September 2010, CBP officers and border patrol agents have interdicted illegal aliens, narcotics, unreported currency and weapons using ATSm.

ELMOcargo and ATSm are part of CBP’s overall mobile technology initiative to deliver targeting data to CBP field personnel in real-time where it is needed.

Nelly Yunta, vice president of U.S. imports, customs brokerage and consulting for Customized Brokers in Miami, the customs brokerage division of Crowley Marine Corp., told The Produce News that the new program means that once discharged from a vessel, the inspector can inspect the container and release it right there at the dock within minutes.

“The process was implemented at Port Everglades right before the season, which is wonderful. The port of Miami is implementing the process in December. It saves around hours in transit time, and in some cases it can even save an overnight hold on a container,” she said.

“We are very grateful to U.S. Customs & Border Protection for implementing the system,” Ms. Yunta continued. “When you’re dealing with fresh fruits and vegetables, every minute counts.”

U.S. Customs & Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of the nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.