The Customs Department at Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman has introduced red and green customs channels in a bid to streamline the duty declaration system.
Officials said the system, which has been in place at the arrivals hall since the second week of November, means that passengers with no goods to declare can get out of the airport faster, once they have retrieved their bags and handed in their customs declaration forms.
According to Collector of Customs Charles Clifford, the simplified process is known as the “red-green” system. Recommended by the World Customs Organization, it streamlines the flow of arriving passengers and their baggage without reducing effectiveness, he said.
Making a truthful declaration is still important, however, Mr. Clifford said in a press release. “Entering the green channel will be considered to be a declaration by the traveler that that person has nothing to declare.”
Mr. Clifford also reminded travelers that officers will be stationed in the green channel to vet suspicious baggage, and that undeclared goods may be subject to seizure by Customs. Failure to make a truthful customs declaration could result in penalties or prosecution.
Meanwhile, those with items to declare will enter a queue in the “red channel” on the opposite side of the Customs hall. Travelers who have filled out a declaration form ahead of time will have the option to pre-pay customs duties with a cashier before collecting their luggage and entering the line. Once in line, an officer will decide whether they can exit or receive a physical inspection.
Signs and audio messages explaining the types and amounts of goods travelers may carry will appear throughout the arrivals hall.
On a normal weekday, 700 passengers arrive at the airport, according to officials. Of those, between 60 and 80 may have goods to declare. The number of arrivals jumps to about 1,600 on weekends, and more during holidays.
Acting Deputy Collector of Customs Jeff Jackson said travelers can avoid complications by making truthful declarations, paying careful attention to signs and having receipts available. He said they can always speak with an officer available at the Customs hall if they are unsure.
During October and November, the department conducted simulation exercises to get officers familiar with the new system. They are also collaborating with the Public Works Department and other airport stakeholders to further computerize and expedite the customs process.
Finance Minister Marco Archer said response to the new system has been positive, and he praised the department for their commitment to improving efficiency. He said the next step will be to bring the process to the new Customs hall, to be completed as part of the $55 million airport expansion announced in September 2015.