"Our streamlined process refers to our state-of-the-art, Web-based systems that allow customers to track the status of their cargo 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Nelly Yunta, vice president of sales, marketing and customer care, liner and logistics business groups for Crowley Maritime Corp. in Jacksonville, FL, and vice president of Customized Brokers, the customs brokerage and consulting division located in Miami. "Fresh produce is time-sensitive; it has a short shelf life. Having a streamlined processing facilities the release and distribution of our customers' cargo."
The Customized Brokers team maintains strong relationships with various government entities, including the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Personnel regularly receive training from these organizations that help facilitate processing.
"Several of our staff members attend FDA, USDA, Agricultural Marketing Services and Customs & Border Protection meetings, seminars, webinars and more, and then we later train the rest of the staff in what they've learned."
Yunta said that maintaining a strong relationship with the U.S. government makes it easier to find solutions for its customers' importing needs.
"It's easier to rectify any potential issues that may arise with the USDA, for example," she said. "And when a company such as ours does it all for our clients -- from booking at origin to final delivery -- this is a very important factor."
She also explained that while every country has different regulations, one critical step that shippers and exporters need to take before sending perishable goods to the U.S. is to register the vessel with the FDA. Additionally, shippers and exporters need to have a "10+2" Importer Security Filing with the CBP, and all wood pallets must be treated at origin and marked with the appropriate stamp.
"Importers and receivers must be registered with the FDA if they manipulate cargo, have a Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act license and hold a U.S. Customs Bond and comply with all Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service requirements," Yunta added.
"We fumigate on a daily basis," she continued. "We handle all the commodities that have to be fumigated by law, as well cargo that has to be fumigated after inspection. We have local representation in Miami, Port Everglades, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Houston and Los Angeles. However, we are able to clear within any port in the United States, including Puerto Rico."
Items that Customized Brokers is currently clearing from Chile include blueberries, avocados, cherries, apricots and peaches.
The blueberry season runs October through April and is peaking now. The cherry season runs from November to January and peaks in December. Avocados run year-round. The apricot season is relatively short -- from December to January. Peaches run from November to March, with movement picking up in December and peaking in January and February.
"Crowley/Customized Brokers is currently working out the logistics to bring even more Chilean produce through South Florida," added Yunta.