A port customs officer directs a truck hauling an intermodal container from a ship to an inspection area.
A port customs officer directs a truck hauling an intermodal container from a ship to an inspection area.

A change at the port of Newark-New York regarding where produce can undergo cold re-treatment isn’t expected to cause issues for importers because only about 2% of the loads fail cold treatment checks to begin with, according to federal inspectors.

Previously, the port allowed brokers to send failed produce loads to off-site distribution centers for re-treatment, said Steve Sapp, public affairs officer for Customs and Border Protection.

Plant Protection and Quarantine officers then traveled to the distribution centers to re-inspect the produce.

“At a March meeting for pest risk analysis we realized no one was doing fruit cutting for those inspections at the distribution centers,” Sapp said.

“Therefore we decided to suspend the practice of allowing shipments from the port of Newark going to remote locations.”

Sapp said from March through June 28, inspectors checked a total of 434 loads, failing only nine of them. Importers of those loads had a couple of options: They could pay to send them to one of four facilities in Philadelphia for re-treatment or, with approval from U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canadian officials, they could send the produce to Canada.

“We are working on a solution to allow us to let loads go to a remote location for re-treatment,” Sapp said, “but we don’t have that in place yet.”

The overall failure rate for loads cold-treated loads at the Newark/New York port is about 2.5%, Sapp said. For the federal fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2010 through Oct. 1, 2011, inspectors checked 3,602 loads and only 89 failed.

Meanwhile, the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is also working on improving options for produce importers who use Newark’s port. Spokeswoman Joelle Hayden said the agency is reviewing a proposal to certify a cold treatment facility in the area.

Hayden said APHIS is not yet ready to release details about the proposal.

On a related note, Sapp said CBP has withdrawn a request for applications for a Centralized Examination Station at the port of Philadelphia that would have been used to inspect international ocean freight. He said the agency is in the process of revising its plan, but does not yet have a timeline.