Rio Grande City port of entry to implement joint inspections

RIO GRANDE CITY — Crossings for cargo trucks could become more efficient at the port of entry here with the implementation of a new program allowing officials from the United States and Mexico to inspect trucks at the same time.

The Rio Grande City-Camargo International Bridge began implementing Unified Cargo Processing on Monday for the simultaneous inspection of cargo trucks by agents of both countries, eliminating the need to be inspected again after they cross the bridge.

The process is a collaboration between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (SAT).

“This CBP/SAT partnership is an innovative approach to processing cargo through the Rio Grande City port of entry,” said Port Director David John Gonzalez, adding that the collaboration would eliminate “unnecessary delays and duplication of efforts while maintaining border security and facilitating lawful commerce.”

The RGC port sees about 300 trucks pass on a busy day, according to Sam Vale, president of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company, who added he expects about 70 percent of their customers to participate in the joint inspections.

The RGC port is the first in the Rio Grande Valley to implement unified processing and is only the second in Texas behind the port in Laredo.

CBP envisions the program will have numerous benefits, said Brad Skinner, assistant director of field operations at the CBP Laredo office.

“For the U.S. trade community, really this means less redundancy of inspections,” Skinner said. “For the city of Rio Grande, I think it will for a more efficient flow of international traffic across the bridge and I’m sure it will be attractive for shippers as they’re exploring their logistics operations here in South Texas.”

The concept of joint inspections started off slow, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and required changes to Mexican law.

In 2015, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved changes to the country’s firearms law, thus enabling foreign immigration and customs authorities to carry weapons when working in Mexico.

“Once that was taken off, then the concept started moving,” Cuellar said, “and now it’s up to all of you to implement this concept.”