Proposed Customs Office Would Ease Hassle For Travelers To The Bahamas

Tuesday 08th, February 2011 / 10:06 Published by
in Travel

STUART — Every time Sewall’s Point resident Stephann Cotton returns from the Bahamas in his twin-engine Navejo Chieftain and prepares for landing at Palm Beach International Airport, he wishes he could come straight home.

Instead, Cotton, president of the Stuart-based advertising and public relations firm Cotton & Co., says he must fly out of his way, burn extra fuel and put his passengers through the anxiety of another takeoff and landing. None of that would be necessary if Witham Field had its own customs office.

Currently, all international flights headed for Stuart must first stop at a customs facility in either Fort Pierce or West Palm Beach before landing at Witham Field. The lack of an immigration office in Martin County also affects area boaters returning from the Bahamas, who must report to a customs office in either St. Lucie or Palm Beach county within 24 hours of arrival.

Boaters can sometimes avoid the trip to the facilities in neighboring counties through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program known as the Local Boater Option that enables them to do a telephone check-in. Larry Laffler, the owner of a Hutchinson Island-based, deep sea fishing charter company known as Hungry Bear Adventures, says it only works if everyone onboard the vessel has previously visited an immigration facility to register.

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