Customs: Online ‘challenges’ mostly fixed

Cayman Islands customs officials said Thursday that most of the technical “glitches” afflicting its online registration platform for importers have now been addressed, and more than 300 customs declarations have been processed via the new Customs Online Service (COLS) portal.

“Thus far, over 600 importers have been registered and verified as recognized traders with customs and this [number] is increasing daily,” a statement from the department indicated.

Customs officials addressed some complaints made by local businesses in Thursday’s edition of the Cayman Compass, indicating problems with the online registration system were holding up various construction projects because builders could not access needed materials from the Cargo Distribution Centre in George Town.

Cox Lumber General Manager Joe Shetler said Wednesday that about half a dozen construction projects had been affected as his company was awaiting delivery of various retail items, including windows, lumber and other construction materials, to distribute to the builders. Normally, Mr. Shetler said, those items would have arrived on a Sunday or Monday for delivery to Cox on a Tuesday. By Wednesday of this week, that had not happened.

“[HM Customs] is saying they’ve got issues that are delaying the release of our containers and that is affecting a lot of job sites,” Mr. Shetler said.

Customs officials said Cox is not using the COLS system to submit any declarations for imported goods, but rather is using a customs broker that submits “hardcopy declarations that take a longer time to process through our legacy systems.”

“According to our records,” the customs statement reads, “we received the declaration for the windows and other goods late Monday afternoon the 27th of November, 2017, and they were cleared and released around 3 p.m. [Wednesday] afternoon.”

Customs officials said they “reached out” Cox Lumber’s broker and urged them to register the company on the COLS system as soon as possible.

“For the interim, customs continues to allow importers to use our legacy system to clear their imports; however, we encourage importers to get registered in COLS as imports using this system will be given priority,” the statement read.

Certain imported items considered “priorities” for clearances like food, medicines, and live animals, would be processed quickly, regardless of the method used.

Customs Collector Charles Clifford said the department would reevaluate toward the end of the year whether it should continue using the old “hard copy” declaration system into 2018.

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