Business

Florida Chamber Calls out Bill Nelson to Push Feds for More Customs Officers at MIA

By: Jim Turner | Posted: October 4, 2012 3:55 AM

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has backed up Gov. Rick Scott’s call for additional customs officers at Miami International Airport to encourage international tourism.

Customs Inspection
Chamber Executive Vice President David Hart urged Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, in a letter to help prod U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to provide more customs officials at the South Florida airport.

“More than 30,000 international travelers missed their connecting flights at MIA after waiting for customs in August 2012,” Hart wrote Nelson on Tuesday.

“Delays in the customs process is the most significant factor generating this problem. Furthermore, large and small airports across Florida have expressed the same concerns and warn things will get worse if nothing is done.”

The Chamber also sent the letter to both U.S. senators and all 25 congressmen/women in the Florida delegation -- as well as to Scott's office and to Chamber President Mark Wilson.

Scott wrote Napolitano on Sept. 20 that insufficient staffing has already caused a “bottleneck” for passengers trying to exit customs. The problem will grow, he said, as the number of international passengers mushrooms with the new, state-of-the-art federal inspection services facility.

“The engineering models and recommendations reflected that for optimal operations, a minimum of 62 of the 72 lanes must be staffed at peak arrival periods,” Scott stated in the letter.

The Chamber letter:

October 1, 2012

The Honorable Bill Nelson

United States Senate

716 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Re: Miami International Airport Needs More Customs Officials to Help Secure Florida’s Future

Dear Senator Nelson:

International passengers arriving at airports across Florida are experiencing increasingly burdensome wait times as they process through customs.

This delayed processing time frequently causes passengers to miss connecting flights and is of great concern to the Florida Chamber of Commerce in light of the important role that international tourism plays in our state’s economy.

The Florida Chamber joins Governor Rick Scott in his recent request to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for more customs officials at Miami International Airport (MIA) – the busiest airport in the nation for international passengers, ranking first in international flights and second in number of passengers. As Governor Scott noted in his letter, the customs problem at MIA makes Florida less competitive on the international stage. That is why he requested Secretary Napolitano ensure that at least 62 of the 72 customs lines at MIA be open at all times, based upon an industrial engineering study participated in by the airport, airlines and CBP.

More than 30,000 international travelers missed their connecting flights at MIA after waiting for customs in August 2012. Delays in the customs process is the most significant factor generating this problem. Furthermore, large and small airports across Florida have expressed the same concerns and warn things will get worse if nothing is done.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism, the United States is on pace for a record-setting year for inbound tourism spending. This will not be sustainable over the long‐term if visitor processing does not improve. Having international passengers wait for several hours in customs after flying for eight to 12 hours is simply unacceptable. These types of delays, especially when compounded with missed flights, set back efforts at both the state and national levels to encourage international tourism.

Last year alone, Florida welcomed 9.3 million overseas visitors and more than 3 million Canadian visitors. Communities across the Sunshine State depend on international visitors. The Florida Chamber supports Governor Scott’s request for more customs and Border Patrol staffing in airports across Florida.

To secure Florida’s future, this issue must be addressed or the Sunshine State could potentially miss an opportunity to grow the international tourism industry at both the state and national levels.

Sincerely,

David A. Hart

Executive Vice President.

cc: The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor of the State of Florida

Mark Wilson, President & CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce




Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.





Comments (1)

Lysander
4:47PM OCT 9TH 2012
Our government has spread itself too thin. When you spend a lot, you begin to not be able to fill all of your responsibilities. If you visit billnelsonrecord.com you will find that senator Nelson has spent his career spending tax dollar after tax dollar. Then when it comes time to eliminate waste or earmarks, Senator Nelson is voting against the bill. Its time we send a message to Washington that we have had it with these big spending politicians! Vote out Nelson!

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