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Borderlands: Customs and Border Protection terminates lease with Texas seaport

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: CBP terminates its lease with the Port of Brownsville; Mexico extends the deadline for new customs requirements; Mexico is the seventh-largest agricultural product exporter in the world; and Holt Truck Centers expands into Oklahoma. 

CBP terminates lease with Port of Brownsville, moves operations to nearby airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently announced it has terminated its lease with a south Texas seaport that is a major trade channel between the United States and Mexico.

As of Saturday, CBP’s personnel and operations moved from the Port of Brownsville to the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

All CBP customs services — including inspection services related to maritime, agriculture, foreign trade zones, bonded warehouse facilities and in-bond movements — will be managed from CBP’s new offices at the airport.

CBP officials did not give FreightWaves a reason for termination of the lease or how many employees will be moving to the airport. 

“Due to the termination of the lease between CBP and the [Port of Brownsville], arrangements for CBP inspectional services will need to be made in advance by contacting CBP personnel by telephone. The international trade community has been advised accordingly,” CBP officials said in an email to FreightWaves.

The Port of Brownsville, founded in 1936, is a 40,000-acre deepwater seaport located along the U.S.-Mexico border. The port is connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a 17-mile-long ship channel. The types of commercial vessels regularly calling at Brownsville are bulk carriers and oil/chemical tankers. The port has 13 general cargo docks and six liquid cargo docks. 

The Port of Brownsville is connected to the Gulf of Mexico by a 17-mile-long ship channel. (Photo: Port of Brownsville)

More than 80% of the port’s trade is with Mexico, transporting products such as steel, gasoline and other fuels across the border.

Eduardo Campirano, director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville, said CBP’s move to the airport doesn’t change anything as far as trade activity is concerned.

“The only thing that changes is that they will not have a presence inside the [Port of Brownsville],” Campirano said. “CBP is relocating to the Brownsville international airport, where they just built a new terminal; apparently they have a new space there.”

The Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport is about 6.5 miles from the Port of Brownsville. In 2020, the airport opened a $43.8 million terminal.

“From a port perspective, we’re obviously disappointed because we have been providing CBP with facilities in our port for 40 years,” Campirano said.

CBP did not pay rent at the Port of Brownsville. 

“They notified us that they would be essentially going to the airport and that they would be dispatching the same people to come to the port,” Campirano said. “Clearing vessels here at the port remains a high priority for them.”

Officials from the Brownsville Licensed U.S. Customs Broker Association declined to comment on how the move could affect trade in the area when contacted by FreightWaves.

The Port of Brownsville moved a record 11.6 million short tons of cargo during 2020. More than 270 companies with 4,000 employees are located at the port.

On a daily basis, the port also sees more than 1,000 trucks transporting petroleum-based products, along with sugar, salt, wind turbine components and steel.

Mexican authorities extend deadline for new customs requirements

The Mexican government announced it is postponing the start of a controversial customs regulation known as the Carta Porte — a digital tax document issued to shipments aimed at protecting the transfer of legitimate goods across Mexico.

Companies shipping goods across the U.S.-Mexico border now have until March 31 to prepare for the Carte Porte without facing fines or penalties. For companies shipping goods domestically across Mexico, the new tax document requirements went into effect Saturday.

The Carta Porte was created by the Mexican Tax Authority (SAT) with the aim of reducing cargo theft and the movement of smuggled goods through Mexico.

All freight of any size and all types of commodities traveling by road, rail, air or sea through Mexico will be required to have the Carte Porte supplement, an electronic document that has up to 160 questions.

The SAT now requires all entities sending goods through Mexico to modify their electronic invoices — known as CFDI in Spanish — with the Carta Porte supplement.

The SAT could fine shippers, carriers or other parties up to $4,500 for not having correct documentation with a shipment.

Watch: FreightWaves’ Mary O’Connell discusses Mexico’s new customs regulations with Nuvocargo’s Anaid Chacon and Josie Blanco.

Mexico 7th-largest agricultural product exporter in the world

Mexico exported agricultural and beverage products to 192 countries during 2021, making it one of the largest agricultural exporters in the world, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER).

Agricultural exports rose 7.5% year-over-year during the first 11 months of 2021, placing Mexico as the seventh-largest international exporter, SADER said in a release.

“The numbers and records are important and motivate us to continue growing, but we never forget that behind the foreign trade figures there are success stories of companies, producers and people who are the face of the transformation of the Mexican countryside,” Víctor Villalobos Arámbula, SADER’s director, said in a statement.

Beer and tequila are the products sold the most abroad. Mexico exported more than 3 billion liters of beer to 130 countries from January through November. The main export destinations for Mexican beer were the U.S., Australia, Canada and South Africa. 

In second place was tequila, with Mexico exporting almost 500 million liters of the distilled beverage in the first 11 months of the year, the highest export level ever for the product. The main destinations are the U.S., Australia, Canada and South Africa.

Pork, beef, avocados, animal feed and lobsters were some of the other top exported agricultural products, according to SADER.

Holt Truck Centers expands into Oklahoma

Holt Truck Centers recently acquired five Summit Truck Group dealerships in Oklahoma, along with the territorial selling rights for Wichita Falls, Texas.

The purchase includes five locations in Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Ardmore, Enid and Muskogee. Holt will also become Navistar’s authorized International truck and IC Bus dealer in Oklahoma and Wichita Falls. 

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“We have deep roots in the on-highway truck business and are committed to ensuring our customers will continue to receive superior products and services to meet their diverse needs,” Bert Fulgium, senior vice president for Holt Truck Centers, said in a statement. 

Holt will continue to sell Isuzu commercial trucks and Ottawa and Crane Carrier specialty vehicles and service all makes and models at all of its locations, according to a release.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com