New regulations for importers

Anyone importing goods to the Cayman Islands will be required to fill out far more detailed customs declaration forms from July.

A new coding system expands the number of categories of items that need to be listed with a specific eight-digit numerical code from around 300 to roughly 5,000.

Under the new Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, traders will be required to be more specific when filling out declaration forms.

The new system, which is used in more than 250 countries, according to Cayman’s Economic and Statistics Office, was introduced officially in March, but will not be strictly enforced until July 1.

It will mean that, for example, rather than classing items for import as “fruit and vegetables,” importers will have to specifically list the amount of each fruit and vegetable in the shipment, along with the relevant eight-digit code.

Julietta Beaupierre, a senior statistician at the Economics and Statistics Office, said the system would be more onerous at first, but would be worth the effort. She said it would enable the statistics office to provide far more detailed information to businesses and government, including data on market-share and possible emerging markets. Sean Tatham, IT business analyst at Customs, said the department was introducing changes to make the process of importing goods more efficient.

He said a new system had already been introduced at the customs department to get rid of the “two-queue” process and cut the amount of time people have to wait in line for paperwork to be processed – a common complaint from business owners.

He said a web portal will also be introduced to allow traders to fill out their customs forms and attach documents online and avoid having to go to the customs office at all.

The new coding system means it would take longer to fill in the paperwork at first, but importers will now have the option of creating a “template” form for their regular orders and simply changing the variables each time, he added.

Mr. Tatham and Ms. Beaupierre were speaking at a public education session on the new regulations. Sessions are being held every day this week and next at HM Customs headquarters on Airport Road at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Ernie Bodden, of Cayman Distributors, said his company had been using the new system since its inception without any difficulties. He said he didn’t expect it to cause too many issues for importers and for him, had simply been a matter of changing some codes in the companies computer system.

“It really hasn’t helped or hindered us, to be honest. I can see how it will be useful for the government from a statistical point of view.”

He welcomed the news that importers would soon be able to fill out their declaration forms online.

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