Marta Vallés: “We’re going to build new BIPs at the Port and Airport”

Interview with Marta Vallés, managing director of the Border Inspection Points of Barcelona

Q- Barcelona is the first Spanish city to have a single person in charge of both BIPs. What does your job consist of?
A- I organise and plan BIP human resources for the Port and the Airport. I am also the interlocutor for the users and official bodies related with the services. This benefits importers since they now have just one person, one visible face. What’s more, the performance criteria for the two BIPs are in the process of being unified.

Q- During the past few months a series of improvements have been implemented in the BIPs. To what end?
A- We have launched the Plan for Measures for Improved External Health Services not only to reinforce sanitary controls but also to ease and speed up the service.

Q- One of the Plan’s first measures was to extend the opening hours of the BIPs...
A- Yes, we have evolved from a service that worked only in the mornings to one that works 12 hours non-stop. Right now we work from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Furthermore, in 2009 we plan to set up a round-the-clock BIP service at the Airport.

Q- The Port BIP facilities have also been revamped...
A- The office and work areas have been expanded, two new loading bays and a cold storage chamber added, there are more freezer chambers and so on. We have also modernised the information and technical systems. And we have increased our staff by 30%.

Q- What has been gained as a result?
A- On the one hand, these improvements help respond to the demands of importers who want a faster service and, on the other, we take new personnel into account and improve their working conditions. This will suffice until we have a new BIP.

Q- A new BIP?
A- New BIPs will be set up in the Port and at the Airport. The Port BIP will be located in the Logistics Activity Zone (ZAL) and will treble the area of the current facility. The projects are now ready. Now we are waiting for the Port Authority and Aena (Spanish Airports and Airspace) to put the works out to tender.

Q- What procedure is followed when a container arrives with food products?
A- The importer has to notify us in advance of the container’s arrival. At that point, he or she must submit the pertinent documentation, i.e., the veterinary certificate, the sanitary certificate from the country of origin (with information on the country and establishment of origin), a photocopy of the purchase invoice, shipping information (with data concerning the ship or flight transporting the cargo) and the customs document. 24 hours following submission of these documents, and providing everything is in order, the importer may then bring us the container and we can proceed with the physical inspection.

Q- What does the physical inspection consist of?
A- First of all the identity is checked. In other words, we make sure that the documentation details tally with those of the container. The health and hygiene conditions of the container are also checked and we check they have been properly sealed. Once this is done, the container is opened and a sample taken for organoleptic examination. The colour, smell and flavour of the product are all taken into account. In certain cases, product samples are taken to be analysed in the laboratory.

Q- Mercabarna business owners have complained about the need for improvements to the service. Now that you are at the helm, what message would you like to get across to them?
A- That the actions we are taking will result in an improved service. However, as we all know, the BIPs have had shortcomings for a long time and we’re going to need some time.