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  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Commissioner of Customs, Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Velma Ricketts Walker, is assuring customers in the local and international trading community that Jamaica is still open for business, despite the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • “Business continues and we are putting every single apparatus and measure in place to ensure that this is happening,” she said, while addressing an online forum on Wednesday (April 8).
  • Mrs. Ricketts Walker stressed that productivity and economic activities, including manufacturing, distribution, importation and exportation, continue.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Commissioner of Customs, Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Velma Ricketts Walker, is assuring customers in the local and international trading community that Jamaica is still open for business, despite the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Business continues and we are putting every single apparatus and measure in place to ensure that this is happening,” she said, while addressing an online forum on Wednesday (April 8).

Mrs. Ricketts Walker stressed that productivity and economic activities, including manufacturing, distribution, importation and exportation, continue.

She noted that as measures are put in place for business continuity, the JCA, along with stakeholders in the public and private sectors, will continue to do everything to ensure that health and safety protocols are put in place to keep customers safe.

“Collectively, we stand resolute in supporting the Government of Jamaica in the fight against the pandemic,” she asserted.

Among the measures implemented to ensure business continuity, while adhering to the Government’s policy regarding social distancing and other safeguards, is the use of telecommuting and teleworking policies to ensure that staff are adequately available to the various areas, remotely.

Also “working well”, especially during this time Mrs. Ricketts Walker pointed out, has been the agency’s ASYCUDA World system, an automated platform that provides for Customs Declarations and all supporting documentation to be submitted electronically.

“Our Customs automated system… remains robust and facilitated the online submission of declarations. To date, we know that 90 per cent of all our documentary transactions come through the system. It allows for customs brokers and any other entity to use the system from anywhere in the world. It allows for border regulatory entities to integrate and utilise, so it promotes remote working, which helps with the continuity of business,” she said.

The system is also zero-rated, which means users have toll-free access.

Mrs. Ricketts Walker further assured that the Agency will also make adjustments to its procedures where necessary.

In the meantime, CEO of Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL), Mark Williams, noted that in this time of uncertainty, Kingston Wharves is offering a level of certainty. “We are open for business. We are open for 24-hour operations,” he asserted.

“We want to assure the public, our international partners, and the Jamaican public that Kingston Wharves is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that the country continues to receive steady supplies of cargo. Once it can get in a ship, the wharf will ensure that it reaches the distribution trade within an acceptable time,” he said.

For her part, President, Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica, Mitzie Gordon Burke-Green, noted that members have not had much fallout due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We still have cargo coming in, and like Customs and Kingston Wharves… we are open for business. We are key in the trade, so if we are not there to clear the goods, customers will not be able to get them,” she said.

“So, once Customs and port operators are working, the customs brokers will be working as well, and we have been collaborating even closer with Customs and the port operators on a daily basis since COVID-19, in order to ensure that we are meeting the requirements of the law of the country and that we’re putting things in place, that our customers… are meeting those requirements and we are still getting the cargo to them on a timely basis,” the President added.

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