A week after the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico granted a petition by shipping company Crowley for an emergency injunction against the Ports Authority’s mandatory cargo inspections, the parties have reached an agreement through which Crowley will launch limited cargo inspections starting today.
In a statement, Crowley said the procedures are not expected to impact customers, as the agreement with Ports “ensures there will be no delays to cargo being delivered from its Isla Grande facility.”
“Crowley will work very closely with the PRPA over the next two weeks to make sure that it is business as usual, and that its customers are not impacted by this test,” Crowley said in a brief statement.
The shipping company turned to the courts on March 29 to halt the government agency’s plans to launch a mandatory inspection program at the maritime ports facilities to scan for contraband or illicit goods that may be hidden to avoid paying excise taxes, a historical problem Puerto Rico has had at its ports.
The new system entails adding a new fee of $60 per ton of cargo for the inspection service to be offered by Rapiscan Systems, the company Ports selected for the job. The goal is to be able to inspect 100 percent of the containers by September. Rapiscan, a global supplier for high-quality security inspection solutions, stands to make as much as $13 million a year through the contract with Ports.
In its court petition, Crowley said the agency was imposing the inspections without proper prior notice, and that because the machines had only been installed at its dock, the move could be considered discriminatory and one that could affect its competitive status.
However, during a news conference on March 23, Ports Authority Executive Director Alberto Escudero said Crowley was aware that it would be the first to begin using the new system, as it has passed the site inspection before Sea Star Lines and Horizon Lines.
Ports has been working on establishing new inspections procedures for the better part of the last two years. The process called for public requests for proposals, bids and public hearings during which affected shippers participated. In December 2010 Sea Star Line said the new regulation could affect the availability of cargo and warned clients that their costs would increase as a result.
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Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.
“As part of our commitment, we’ll be initiating a series of community dialogues with the residents of the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, as well as with their mayors and the top municipal executives of Ceiba, Cataño and San Juan.”