Customs Dept. Preparing for Busy Yuletide Season


The advent of the Christmas season typically brings with it, a large number of barrels being shipped to Jamaica and persons taking extra luggage when entering the country.
In response to the anticipated rise in importations to Jamaica, the Customs Department has beefed up its personnel, to ensure that incoming cargo is processed speedily at the country’s Wharves and Airports. Deputy Commissioner of Operations at the Customs Department, Staple Chambers, tells JIS News that, “when it comes to the busy period for Christmas, when we expect an increase in the volume of cargo, we sometimes have to pull officers of the same rank who normally work in-house, the people who would be at the head office who work in the office dealing with paper work, sometimes we pull from there”.
“Sometimes we pull from our specialist and expert areas people who deal with compliance and verification, sometimes we have to pull those officers as well to give their expert assistance at the point of clearance,” she adds. On the matter of processing incoming barrels or packages, the Deputy Commissioner notes that dependent on the contents of import, “if there are items that require permits and so on, the processing might be longer, so if it is an average barrel with just food and clothing, and when we say food [it refers to] rice, oil, and maybe a few tin stuff, that would not require a permit”.
In such an instance, she says the processing time for that would be very short in comparison to other shipments that might need the Ministry of Agriculture or the Bureau of Standards or the Ministry of Health to intervene.
Mrs. Chambers suggests that importers should declare the actual contents of the barrel or package they are receiving to Customs, before visiting the wharves. This, she says, will make processing that much simpler and faster.
“It helps the officer before opening up the package to know what is there, so he can determine beforehand what he needs to open and look at, or if he decides to look, what percentage of check he is going to do,” she adds.
The Customs Department introduced a computerised system to process packages in June, and Mrs. Chambers reports that the system has proven to be quite efficient. She explains that before its implementation, officers were compelled to open packages to examine their contents, then corresponding forms would be written up, after which they would be able to assess the respective duty.
She advises that for persons clearing non-commercial or commercial items at Customs, they should have the requisite documentation at hand. These include an invoice or packing list for non-commercial cargo, and a Tax Registration Number (TRN), compliance certificate and an invoice for commercial imports.
Another method, which persons expecting imports can take advantage of, is electronic payment. She says in using this burgeoning transaction method, “an importer can stay at home or in his office and track the status of the document for his goods to see where it is at Customs, and if it is ready for duty payments. He can stay right where he is and pay for that entry [online] and just come and pick up the documents and go collect the goods on the wharf”.
She tells JIS News, that during the yuletide season, activities are heightened at Customs. “What we will try to do during Christmas as well, is to have people roaming the areas.customs officers whose responsibility will be just to check documents to ensure that they are properly completed before the importer turns up to the officer who be examining or collecting the duties,” Mrs. Chambers explains.
The Deputy Commissioner cautions persons carrying out business transactions with Customs, to do so in a manner that is law-abiding. “We are imploring people now to ensure that they do the right thing, because even though we are in the midst of the busy season, we still have our compliance obligations, and where people are found breaching the laws, we will be taking the necessary actions”.
“So, we are asking people just to do the right thing and ensure that they declare their right values and true invoices and documents,” she says.
Persons found violating custom laws will find themselves pinned with heavy fines and their goods seized for non-compliance.
Mrs. Chambers points out that the present law dictates that the minimum penalty for false declaration of cargo is $500,000 or three times the value of the goods. “We have been prosecuting people, we have been enforcing these provisions and we have been raising these penalties and collecting on them,” she adds.

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