Customs changes get mixed reception

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Premier Alden McLaughlin’s announcement to slash the coding importation system has stirred a mix of emotions among the business community. 

The premier last week announced changes would come into effect on Sept. 1 to reduce the list of 5,000 eight-digit numerical codes to about 3,000. Customs will also offer businesses a $5 service if they wish to have a customs officer complete the coding for them. 

Marble Craft Ltd. owner David Guilfoyle said he saw no point to the code system, other than Cayman “copying a thing that works in Europe.” 

“It’s not easy. For small businesses, it’s very difficult,” Mr. Guilfoyle said. “I’m still to be told what is the benefit of it. The data is interesting but it’s not relevant. What really are they going to do with it?” 

The coding system was introduced in March, but began to be enforced from July 1. 

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Part of its purpose is to provide more detailed information on imports to businesses and government. 

Tortuga Rum Company president Robert Hamaty said there were plenty of ways to simplify tariffs codes by grouping them together, but said the new system aimed to gain statistics which made it more work for customs and the importer. “Now [there’s a] higher cost to clear your goods, customs brokers will have to charge extra and more time wasted … [It’s] a cost for government and the public,” Mr. Hamaty said.  

Shanti Christian, of Easyway Express, said it was not the codes that were the problem but the task of completing the required paperwork. 

The owner of the courier firm said lowering the number of codes would not improve the system. 

“The actual coding system is not the problem, it’s the paperwork,” Ms. Christian said. “What used to take 10 minutes to do, now it takes two hours. Then the customs officer has to look at it.” 

“The coding is the easiest part, it’s what we do after. They need to use the staff cost-effectively for everybody,” she added. 

Prentice Panton, owner of Reflections and Liquor 4 Less, said he felt the reduction “might help somewhat, but it’s still a lot of codes to remember – that’s still 3,000 codes.”  

“It’s very time consuming,” Mr. Panton said. “I think the concept is a good one but it’s going to take people a while to get used to it.” 

Collector of Customs Samantha Bennett said the introduction of seven staff members earlier this year as administrative and customer service officers had enabled customs officers to be redeployed into the areas of enforcement, inspection and airport operations, which would help with the changes. 

“We anticipate that, yes, we will need to hire a few more persons to primarily process the codes and input them,” Ms. Bennett said. “The minimal $5 fee will cover the cost of these additional resources.” 

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A list of coding classifications for imports will be cut from 5,000 to 3,000, according to government officials. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT
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