The Port of Hueneme won designation Friday as an official U.S. port of entry, boosting its plans to become a larger player in the West Coast shipping industry.
With the designation from the U.S. Treasury Department, the port will be able to accept shipments from any carrier without first having to clear them through the U.S. Customs Service office in Los Angeles.
“This removes what I believe people in the shipping industry perceived as an impediment to using this port,” port Director Anthony Taormina said Friday.
Until now, the Port of Hueneme fell under the strict supervision of the Los Angeles customs office, which decided whether shipments could be handled by the port’s one inspector or needed to be routed elsewhere.
Taormina said one ship that arrived in port in 1988 had to be rerouted to Los Angeles because the inspector was unable to single-handedly examine its cargo. That shipping firm no longer calls at the port, he said.
“If you can remove these type of obstacles, you can attract more business,” Taormina said.
James D. Pidd, director for inspection and control at the Los Angeles customs office, said the change in status should drastically improve the port’s business.
“It’s much more attractive to all sorts of carriers,” Pidd said. “They won’t have to sell their case to us each time they want to bring in a new type of shipment up there.”
U.S. Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett granted the port-of-entry status based on a projected 60% increase in vessel calls over the next three years.
Under federal law, the port has to draw 350 ships in one year to be granted port-of-entry status. The port attracted 217 ships in the 12 months ended Oct. 1 and is expected to reach 350 ships by 1994 with the signing of recent contracts with fruit and automobile shippers.
The Port of Hueneme was one of the few ports in California that lacked port-of-entry status. That prevented it from applying to become a foreign trade zone, which allows shippers to defer tax payments on imported goods.
The new designation also will allow the port to accept certain container cargo, which requires more thorough customs scrutiny than the cars and bananas that now make up the bulk of its imports.
“We’re obviously very concerned about narcotics interdiction,” Pidd said.
The Oxnard Harbor District, which oversees the port, had been turned down in three previous requests since 1978. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) attached language to an appropriations bill last year that required customs officials to re-examine the port’s status.
Although the public can comment on the change until Dec. 31, port officials expect the status to go unchallenged.