Help wanted: Customs Collector in Cayman

14 months later, Carlon Powery not replaced

The Cayman Islands is trying, for the fourth time in little more than a year, to find a permanent replacement for retired Customs Collector Carlon Powery.  

The job advertisement for the collector’s post – which earns between $105,000 and $126,000 per year – went out again last week. Three previous attempts to hire a head of department for the organisation responsible for the largest chunk of revenue government earns each year stalled when government rejected all the candidates who applied.  

“The reason for not filling the position is that no applicant who meets all of the required qualifications and experience has applied for the position,” said Anne Owens, the government’s senior assistant financial secretary. “This is despite three previous recruitment efforts.  

“The deputy governor has been consulted and is fully aware of the challenges faced with filling the position.”  

Until someone is hired, Ms Owens said deputy customs collectors Emalie Wilks and Collie Powery have alternated as acting collector.  

The collector of customs is a critical position in the Cayman Islands government, acting not only as revenue collector from imported goods but ensuring that illegal movement of items into and out of the Islands is prevented.  

The position requires a masters degree in management or business, higher than requirements for most government chief officer posts. The application also seeks at least seven years management experience and “expert knowledge of the international trade process and the Cayman Islands law relating to customs”. The job posting also seeks broad knowledge of the government and the Customs Department, acquired “ideally through existing experience”, presumably an attempt to weight the job application in favour of local candidates.  

Carlon Powery left the customs department in May 2012, after serving in the collector’s job since 1988. He is Cayman’s longest-serving customs collector. Although, it was never linked to his retirement, the Caymanian Compass reported – just a few weeks before the retirement was announced – Carlon Powery’s peripheral involvement in a shipment of explosive materials to the Cayman Islands in early 2012. That shipment, made without proper permits and regulatory steps in place, led to criminal charges and an eventual fine against a local company, Midland Acres Ltd.  

Then-Premier McKeeva Bush wrote to Mr. Powery on 7 March, 2012 seeking to speed along the importation of the blasting materials. 

“By way of this memorandum, I request that the blasting materials for Midland Acres, which are currently held by HM Customs, be released…” Mr. Bush wrote. “I would be grateful for this request to be expedited as the company is desperately in need of the materials to proceed with their ongoing projects.”  

The RCIPS had announced that Mr. Bush was involved in three police investigations, including the one involving the dynamite importation where officers claimed “allegations have been made in relation to the involvement of the premier in the periphery of a recent incident where a quantity of explosives were imported to the Cayman Islands without the necessary permit”. 

Mr. Bush denied that his letter to Mr. Powery represented political interference, only a request to expedite the matter so that the project could continue. “I have done nothing illegal in conducting business in an official capacity,” Mr. Bush said at the time. “I have done nothing illegal in conducting business in a personal capacity.” The RCIPS never charged Mr. Bush, or any other individual, in connection with the importation and he has since been released from police bail terms.  


  1. After all those years, it is hard to believe that a replacement was not in the waiting. One thing I have always said; I am not doing my job if I am not training someone to take it. So the deputy do not want the promotion. Promote the deputy and move everyone up one step. They would have to train the new guy anyway.

  2. Promote the deputy, why? Promotion by default seems to be why a lot of govt. departments are in such a mess.

    Alter the criteria so that there is more than 1 person on the planet that can do the job.

  3. Who can we get to fill Mr. Carlon Powery’s shoes; yes that is a huge challenge, and one I am sure the Cayman people will watch carefully.
    Mr Carlon did an exceptionally good job in that department, not just being a good Caymanian man, but one who knew his job well. Not all Caymanians that are in a top position holds a degree, but they have been capable of handling their positions. If there is a young Caymanian acting in that capacity and knows the job well, they should be considered, and if they do not have the degree which the job ask for, I think they should be given the opportunity to get that degree. It is one of the most important jobs in this country, and I do hope we find the right person.

  4. The reason why we have no money! We allow people to do jobs for years, no degrees, just 20-30 years on the job training! When it is time for the job to be filled again, no consideration given for the vast experience amassed! No!!! Too easy! Let’s import yet another person with their brilliant, non-workable ideas! Again, the reason we have no money! For every position that could be filled locally the savings would be considerable! The cost to recruit from abroad is getting higher and higher. The new hire gets here and then what? More unworkable ideas! The cost then? To remove and go back to square one! When are we going to learn????? Probably never!

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