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Old 23-07-2003, 09:25   #1
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US Customs @ Florida

From "Soundings-Trade Only Today" (July 23/03)

Customs may ease Florida check-ins

A Florida congressman says the Department of Homeland Security is searching for ways to make it easier for boats returning to the United States from the Bahamas and other foreign ports to be inspected by federal officers.

U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a West Palm Beach Republican, said he received a letter from Homeland Security spokeswoman Pamela Turner, informing him the agency is considering a system similar to that used at the Canadian border.

Under that type of system, boat-landing permits would be issued to “trusted travelers,” according to an Associated Press report appearing in several major Florida newspapers this morning.

Boaters returning from foreign waters now are required to present themselves to immigration authorities in person within 24 hours of their return. In pre-Homeland Security days, boaters were allowed to check in by phone.

Also under consideration, according to the AP report, is a nationwide reporting station program, which would require boaters to first have a background check so they can be cleared by calling Immigration and Customs officials upon arrival in a U.S. port.

A third option would involve a national private vessel videophone reporting system that would allow boaters to be interviewed as they enter a port.

“We’re thrilled that the Bush administration is looking for a way to help Florida’s boaters,” Foley told the AP. “While protecting our homeland comes second to nothing, we must find a way to ease the unreasonable burden on our recreational and commercial boaters.”

Gord May
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