Fishermen exempted from immigration requirements

 

Fishing lawmakers sought assurances last week that
amendments to the Immigration Law would not make life more difficult for sport
fishermen heading out of Cayman waters to make deep sea catches.

Deputy governor Donovan Ebanks presented the Immigration
(Amendment) (No. 2) Bill to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning, 7
April, which introduced new arrangements for submitting passenger and crew
manifests by arriving and departing airplanes and cruise ships.

Mr. Ebanks said concerns about the impact the amendments may
have on amateur fishermen had been raised to him by Premier McKeeva Bush and
East End MLA Arden McLean and he assured them that these would be addressed in
the companion regulations to the amended law, which was passed by legislators
Thursday.

“[Local] vessels which may leave here… to go outside
territorial waters to fish are subject to requirements in terms of dealing with
immigration and customs that are, in the view of some persons, much more
stringent than they should be,” said Mr. Ebanks.

He said discretion could be exercised in the regulations in
how requirements for information on vessels and passengers could be imposed.

“We will look to see how we can best address the local
boating community that is temporarily going outside territorial waters and
returning,” the deputy governor said.

The amended law expands the duties and obligations of local
agents, captains or pilots of cruise ships and planes to provide details of
passengers and crew to immigration officials. If a ship or plane brings to
Cayman passengers or crew who do not have valid entry visas, proof of
citizenship or who provide false information, the local agent, captain or pilot
is liable to be fined up to $5,000.

The bill is primarily aimed at upgrading the way in which
the Immigration Department receives passenger information from airlines, Mr.
Ebanks said.

He said existing legislation already required airlines and
cruise ship operators to provide passenger manifests prior to arrival and
departure of every vessel or flight.

“At the moment, airlines provide passenger manifests for
departing and arriving flights to officers by hand and this could be after the
flight has arrived or after it has departed, and so the manifest cannot be used
to verify whether the passengers listed on it should have been permitted to
arrive or depart. The cruise ship operators provide their manifest by email.
With the proposed new system, we will be able to harmonise and standardise the
process by which both carriers provide information,” Mr. Ebanks said.

Passenger and crew manifests would be provided
electronically under the new system, the deputy government said. He added that
the new arrangements would ease bottlenecks during peak travel times because
immigration and customs officers would already have outgoing passenger
information on hand. “We expect to see a substantial reduction in the level of
exit monitoring we will require,” he said.

“From a law enforcement perspective, it allows us to
identify earlier than at the moment when a person presents himself at the
border checkpoint who intends to travel and who may be of interest to us,” Mr.
Ebanks said.

Mr. McLean, who said the Opposition supported the amendments,
pointed out some of the difficulties faced by fishermen who fished at sites
like 60 Mile Bank or Pickle Bank, which lie outside Cayman waters.
“There are many of us in here, including the premier, who have engaged over the
years in sport fishing and pleasure fishing and we have taken to the high seas
to do so because we have some very fertile banks within our jurisdiction,” Mr.
McLean told legislators.

He said he and fellow fishermen often visited Cayman Brac
and Little Cayman to take part in fishing
tournaments. On those trips, they notify the Port Authority of their travel
plans and receive a rotation number, which they then supply to Customs on the Sister Islands
for verification.

Mr. McLean suggested that a similar arrangement should be
introduced for vessels travelling outside of local waters for pleasure fishing
purposes.

Currently, for fishing charters or boats going outside
territorial waters, information on the number and names of passengers, a bill
of health for the vessel and registration of the passengers must be submitted
to Immigration and Customs 24 hours before departure. “At the very least, it is
cumbersome,” Mr. McLean said.

If the weather is inclement and the trip is cancelled,
Immigration and Customs must be informed that the boat did not leave, he said.
Upon returning to Cayman, the vessels must be cleared again by Customs and
Immigration.

Mr. McLean argued that sport fishing tourism, such as sword
fishing, would be encouraged locally if it were easier for fishermen to enter
and leave Cayman waters in tournaments.

“There are occasions when we are in tournaments and we want
to go to 60 Mile Bank to fish for the big game and we can’t go because we are
out on the water and we would have to come in to clear, to make out all of this
paperwork to get out there in this tournament to do fishing,” he said.

“We find ourselves not being able to really give the sport
fishing tourism a good shot in the arm to attract more people because of this
immigration [and customs] problem we have,” he added.

Mr. McLean said exemptions for fishing vessels would not
encourage “those who are currently using the waters for illicit reasons”. “Do
we really think they go and clear now? They don’t clear.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Why not make an temporary exemption pass during fishing tournaments?

    All competitors who are taking part in the fishing tournament, must have an official pass per person issued by the Tournament Administration, which is then checked and cleared by customs prior to the start of the tournament.

    These passes should have dates on when they are issued, and an expiry date, usually at the end of the tournament.

    Also why not have a large temporary decal or flag issued by the Tournament administration that must be mandatory attached to the vessel at all times which is registered to take part of the fishing tournament.

    Wouldn’t this make life easier for custom officials to recognize official fishing tournament vessels, so when they check the vessel all competitors will have there passes in order.

    These passes should only be available to competitors during official fishing tournaments and must be mandatory when they sign up for the tournament. No pass, no fishing. seems a bit strict but I think it would help.

    For people outside tournaments (i.e Tourists and other sport fishermen), why not make a simple sport fishermen license which is easy to acquire, and when they contact the port to go outside of our jurisdiction to fish, they supply their license number to the port customs officials, and then the custom officials can find out exactly who they are and register them.

    This is just a simple idea that I thought of, it may be a good one, or it might not be a good one.

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