A test reduction in service hours for the Port of Raymond entry in northeastern Montana will be delayed until April 18. The announcement followed urging by citizens and senators alike that the CBP reconsider its plan to reduce hours at the port.
Senator Jon Tester said he was pleased with the decision because it gives legislators more time to convince CBP to keep the port open 24 hours. He points out closing the port at night leaves a 550-mile gap between 24-hour ports along the northern border in Montana and North Dakota.
As of press time, the port closure hours will be between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.
A previous article in the Sidney Herald indicated a March 6 start date for the testing period. The decision to change the start time for the testing period wasn’t made until Tuesday after press time.
The initial start date was announced at a Feb. 11 meeting in Plentywood that attracted about 200 people with concerns ranging from the effect on the economy to problems getting emergency health care when open ports are so far apart.
The testing period is to run for 60 days to allow CBP to thoroughly explore all its options.
“Last year, and this year, CBP has been actively listening and will continue to listen to the concerns and needs of the stakeholders and the surrounding communities,CBP public affairs officer Kristen Maypol said. “Their feedback is important to CBP and will be taken into account in the final decision.”
An additional component to the overall evaluation of whether to modify existing port hours will include the 2015 assessment of potential security implications, total annual operating costs, average annual crossing for commercial and passenger vehicles and proximity to alternate ports of entry.
“CBP wants to strike a balanced schedule for the port such that the operating hours suit the workload,” Maypole said. “Looking at the complete picture, CBP recognizes the importance of cross border travel to local and regional economic development activity and endeavors to facilitate it to the best of their ability. It is embodied in the agency mission statement and CBP is held accountable to it.”
No final decision has yet been made as to whether the port will be closed six hours in a 24-hour period on a permanent basis, Maypole said.
Previously, CBP has pointed out that an average of just 3.39 vehicles are using the crossing between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. in 2015, and more than half of those came through just after 6 a.m.
They estimate it is costing $340,000 in overtime and $200,000 in temporary duty costs to maintain a 24-hour crossing at the port.
“The Raymond Port of Entry has the lowest volume of commercial import shipments of all the commercial ports in Montana,” says Great Falls Area Port Director Daniel Escobedo. “The midnight shift at Raymond Port of Entry accounts for just .66 percent of commercial shipments arriving at all commercial ports of entry in Montana.”
Comments and feedback are to be accepted throughout the 60-day test period. They may be sent to Area Port Director Daniel Escobedo, Attn: “Raymond-Test Hours” 2108 21st St. S., Great Falls, Montana 59404.
At the end of the test period, an assessment will be conducted to include feedback comments, and a cost-saving analysis to make a decision on the permanent hours for the Raymond POE.