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It'll be a little easier clearing US Customs from Bahamas..

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Old 03-29-2005, 12:05 PM
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Default It'll be a little easier clearing US Customs from Bahamas..

FYI-
In the news.

S. Florida boaters hail plan to simplify procedure for returning to
U.S.
--------------------

By Stephen Deere
Staff Writer

March 29, 2005

JUPITER * For the past few years, recreational boaters in Florida have complained that the process of re-entering the country from international waters is so difficult and illogical, all it does is frustrate people who obey the law or push them toward acting criminally.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, announced a plan that he hopes will alleviate the frustration by using videophone check-in
stations.

Before 9-11, returning from a weekend trip to the Bahamas simply required a phone call to immigration authorities to clear customs. Afterward, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began requiring passengers to check in at the nearest customs office within 24 hours. Thousands of
South Florida boaters quickly found themselves immersed in a system that prolonged what used to be simple weekend trips by as much as a day.

Customs offices at South Florida ports are often closed on the weekends and have limited hours during the week. When boaters return to the country, they report having trouble reaching immigration officials to figure out where to go. Out-of-state passengers will sometimes reach land without a vehicle and be told they need to somehow find their way to a
customs office at one of the region's three international airports.

Industry officials say the frustration has been so great that boaters have either stopped traveling outside U.S. waters, or they fail to report where they've been.

Standing in an office at the Jupiter Yacht Club, Foley announced the Recreational Boaters Streamlined Inspection Act.

The proposal would allow boaters to check in with customs officials 24 hours day via videophones at 13 points of entry from Key West to the Sebastian Inlet. The change would effectively end lengthy trips to customs offices and eliminate the need for illegal behavior, boating industry
officials say.

Foley said the system as it is does nothing to prevent smuggling or terrorism because the only people who bother to report they are returning from a foreign land are those who obey the law.

"Logic would tell you that only law-abiding citizens would fully
participate in this activity," he said. "We are easing the burden on law-abiding citizens."

Lou Daniello Jr., president of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc., said his industry had suffered in recent years because of the difficulty boaters encounter when returning to the Unites States.

"The marine industry welcomes this," he said of Foley's plan.

George Brown, who owns a marine repair business in the Riviera Beach Marina, said he hears many complaints.

And he estimates that as many as 70 percent of people who venture outside U.S. territorial waters don't notify customs officials about their trips because the process has become so cumbersome.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell, who has taken boating trips to the Bahamas for 35 years, said boaters have a hard time figuring out where they should go when they reach a port of entry because customs officials are difficult to reach by phone.

"I always tell people, `Take two cell phone batteries because that's what it takes to get through,'" he said.

Under the legislation, the videophones would be installed at kiosks at the entrance to ports, Foley said.

Foley said the system is in place and working well in the Great Lakes region along the U.S.-Canadian border.

He does not know how much it would cost to implement in Florida. Although Congress must pass the bill and determine how to pay for it, Foley said he hopes the system could be in place within six months.

"So far, we have not encountered any opposition," Foley said.

Recreational boater Harry Custer, who docks his boat at the Riviera Beach Marina, said clearing customs at the Port of Palm Beach often proves difficult. The customs office there is only open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
weekdays, making weekend trips to the Bahamas a daunting prospect, marine industry officials said.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection could not be reached for comment.

Most boaters don't notify authorities when re-entering the country, Custer said.

He said it wouldn't be so frustrating if the security policy actually helped prevent terrorism, but that seems highly unlikely. "I can't imagine a terrorist calling the hotline and saying, `Hey, I'm in your country,'" he said.

Stephen Deere can be reached at [email protected] or
561-832-1647.



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Old 03-29-2005, 08:48 PM
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Default Re: It'll be a little easier clearing US Customs from Bahamas..

Similar situation:

We occasionally go to Pelee Island CA (Lake Erie) and Canadian Customs is a breeze...go to to a payphone (HAS to be a payphone) call, chat with them, display # on boat, good to go.
Coming back to the USA is a cluster [email protected]
The only US Customs video phone in the area is on PIB, and usually there is NO dockage available on Sat or Sun to do it...and if there was...you'd get reamed up the azz for a $35 mooring fee or the $$ dock fees just to check back in.
The other official locations are (I think) somewhere in Toledo and Cleveland.
The system is rigged so it's pretty much impossible to return to the USA legally....WTF
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