The Government has taken another step towards strengthening security at its commercial ports, with the signing of a Letter of Intent with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to participate in the Container Control Programme.
The signing took place on June 27, at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, in Kingston.
This programme is funded by the Canadian government and will see Jamaica partnering with the UNODC and the World Customs Organization (WCO), to strengthen the country’s ability to process containers that pass through the nation’s ports.
Under the programme, there will be the formation of dedicated, interagency container profiling units, comprising teams from Customs, the Jamaica Constabulary and Jamaica Defence Forces, the Port Authority of Jamaica and other relevant law enforcement officers.
They will work in close co-operation with each other to prevent cargo containers from being used for unlawful activities, such as illicit drug trafficking, smuggling of goods, tax evasion, intellectual property related acts and possible terrorist acts.
“I think we recognise that containers represent a major part of the trade flows between Jamaica and the rest of the world. Some 90 per cent of international trade is represented by container flows and less than two per cent of these flows are inspected. This leaves significant room for the corruption of the cargo and it allows for organised criminal activities to thrive,” Dr. Phillips explained.
The Minister said he welcomed the programme, pointing out that there is a revenue enhancement component. “Given our current fiscal situation, we need all the revenues we can get to execute vital progammes and therefore we are concerned that there ought not to be illicit flows, or other flows across our borders through our ports, which are undertaken to evade taxation,” he added.
The UNODC-WCO aims to assist governments to establish effective container controls that will serve not only to prevent drug trafficking and other illicit container crimes, but also to facilitate legitimate trade and raise state revenues.
Programme Manager for UNODC, Troels Vester, said there has been no instance where a country has lost revenues as a result of implementing the programme; instead revenues have been increased.
He explained that the core of the programme is to identify the high risk containers. Officers are trained for three years and will be equipped to find more illicit activities, even as they inspect fewer containers.
Mr. Vester said the programme could be up and running by November, this year.
Canadian High Commissioner, Stephen Hallihan, explained that the programme operates in 11 countries in West Africa, Latin America and West and Central Asia.
By Andrea Braham