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 company caters almost exclusively to fruits and vegetables.
“Therefore a streamlined process is essential in the services we offer,” said Ms. Yunta. “Produce doesn’t have time to sit at ports, so we work seven days a week to consolidate where possible, reduce paperwork and coordinate with truckers to ensure that products get to their destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Ms. Yunta said that it is vital for a brokerage service company to have strong relationships with the relevant agencies and to stay abreast of regulations and changes.
“And we coordinate with U.S. government agencies on new processes,” she said.
Customized Brokers’ staff must be knowledgeable about the Federal Register and all related regulations, including U.S. Customs & Border Protection and Agriculture Quarantine Inspection. It conducts internal seminars and attends industry seminars to stay on top of details.
In some instances, Customized Brokers provides full logistics services to its customers. Ms. Yunta said that the company’s relationship with Crowley is highly beneficial in many instances, but the company also does business with other carriers.
She said that exporters and importers need to understand if the product that is shipping to the United States is acceptable, adding that food products must be registered with the Food & Drug Administration. Customized Brokers assists importers with the needed information.
“We receive calls daily from importers, and we guide them through the maze,” she said. “We also get requests from exporters in foreign countries. This is why we travel to the foreign locations to work with them and help keep them abreast of U.S. regulations.”
Customized Brokers is a part of a group called the Perishable Committee in Miami. The group holds full-day programs that bring together government agencies, carriers, importers and brokers to learn about emerging issues, such as when there is an insect problem.
“When product requires fumigation we coordinate it with the carrier, the fumigation company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Ms. Yunta. “Last year at Port Everglades, a series of shipments had to be re-exported because the containers had been manipulated, and the USDA does not allow manipulation. In response to the problem, Crowley built a chamber in Miami that allows product to be manipulated into a second reefer.”
She explained that sometimes mixed loads are so full that they cannot be fumigated. Manipulation is when the load has to be broken down into a second reefer to allow for fumigation.
This season’s offshore melon movement was underway in mid-November. Ms. Yunta said that signs are that volumes will be as high as they have been in past years.
“We were clearing melons from Guatemala in late November,” she said. “Shipments will continue from Guatemala until Honduras starts in January. Brazil is producing some melons, but the majority of its crop goes to Europe. You can’t predict weather conditions that can change movement, but typically offshore melons come into the U.S. from November through April.”
Customized Brokers clears offshore cantaloupes, honeydews and watermelons. The majority of shipments come into south Florida, but also in Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia and the West Coast.
Ms. Yunta said that U.S. Customs & Border Patrol at Port Everglades has initiated a new mobile operation enforcement system that is highly beneficial in speeding up the clearance process.
On Jan. 27, Crowley Marine and Customized Brokers will be moving into a new facility in Miami. It will have a small cold-storage section, called Crowley Fresh, to serve some customers’ requests.
“Although Crowley and Customized Brokers will be in the same office, we will continue our separate operations,” said Ms. Yunta. “The move will help us to improve our processes with Crowley, but we will continue to focus our services with the other carriers we work with.”