Customs station moves to ATS Logistics facility in North Charleston

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published July 22, 2014

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently finalized a five-year contract with ATS Logistics to operate the federal customs examination station for cargo coming through the Port of Charleston.

Charleston Freight Station operated customs’ Centralized Examination Station from its facility off Clements Ferry Road for 18 years.

The station now operates out of ATS Logistics’ new facility at 4033 W. Montague Ave. in North Charleston. ATS recently consolidated its three warehouses into the 140,000-square-foot facility.

The Centralized Examination Station relocated to ATS Logistics' new facility in North Charleston. Federal agents occupy about 6,000 square feet there. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
The Centralized Examination Station relocated to ATS Logistics' new facility in North Charleston. Federal agents occupy about 6,000 square feet there. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

The Centralized Examination Station enables U.S. Customs to consolidate all physical inspection operations to one location, according to a statement from Steve Switzer, U.S. Customs’ public affairs liaison.

U.S. Customs officers, agriculture specialists and import specialists conduct the inspections on every type of cargo, including refrigerated cargo, from a designated inspection area within the ATS facility, Switzer said.

The customs station has 24 federal agents working out of around 6,000 square feet, according to ATS President and CEO Jimmie Gianoukos.

The agents physically inspect designated containers coming through the Port of Charleston for potential contraband, such as drugs or weapons, or for cargo that violates trade agreements or creates security threats.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Agriculture Department decide which cargo must undergo inspections at the station before going onto its final destinations.

“The current CES, the only one of its kind in South Carolina, is a state-of-the-art facility, which will increase CBP’s inspection capabilities and ensure the execution of our critical mission of securing America’s borders,” Switzer said in a statement.

In September 2013, U.S. Customs tentatively selected ATS Logistics from among six local applicants to be the new operator of the customs station. The agreement was finalized on June 23, and the station is now operational.

“This will bring a substantial amount of new business in through our doors every day,” Gianoukos said. “We handled customs cargo before, but nothing like this. We expect it will have a domino effect for us in the future.”

Charleston Freight President and founder David Blair said the relocation is a relief to many of his customers and frees up warehouse space for new business, such as a recently secured contract with Mumbai, India-based BKT Tires, part of Balkrishna Industries Ltd.

Charleston Freight will retrieve huge industrial tires from the Port of Charleston, store them in its 55,000-square-foot warehouse and then distribute them across the East Coast.

Blair expects the demand for more customs examination space to increase as the Port of Charleston continues to grow.

“We feel the exam processes in Charleston will only increase and that a second exam site is going to be required,” Blair said. “No one exam site would be able to keep up with growth.”

Jim Newsome, the president and CEO of the S.C. Port’s Authority, said the customs station is a crucial component of the Port of Charleston, according to a statement.

“CBP and the CES perform vital functions for the maritime community, ensuring regulatory compliance while supporting the flow of commerce.  Their efficient and competitive operations are integral to our port’s position,” Newsome said.

Read more details in the July 28 issue of the Charleston Regional Business Journal. Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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