Government is beginning to clamp down on unlicensed traders selling imported cars by the roadside.
Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew said there were concerns that many of the cars being imported into the islands where being resold on the black market. He said his ministry was working with Customs and Border Control to investigate and prevent people from bringing in cars for resale without a proper trade and business license.
More than 4,000 SUVs, trucks and motorcycles were shipped into the islands last year – almost triple the number that were brought to the island in 2010.
One local dealer told the Compass he believes less than 25% of those are being brought to the country by licensed businesses. Robert Campbell, who has been running Campbells Auto Repair and Sales on North Sound Road for three decades, said the problem had been getting steadily worse over the past few years.
He believes at least half of the vehicles being imported on a weekly basis are being resold.
Minister Hew said government was working to cut out that illegal trade.
“We have a lot of people here who are importing cars from overseas, buying them through the internet and selling them locally,” Hew said. “We are tracking imports and if you have imported two or three cars for the year already, we will investigate and find out if you are running a business.”
He said anyone trading in imported vehicles needed to be licensed through the Department of Commerce and Investment and to have a place to sell the vehicles.
“We are trying to slow down the importation of cars by illegal dealers and to battle the occurrences of people using the roadside as a sales lot.” He said the move should help stimulate the legitimate local used car trade.
Government is also looking into further initiatives, including potentially restricting the age of cars that can be imported into the islands. Councillor Austin Harris is heading up a committee looking into solutions.
Campbell said he was pleased to see some movement on the issue. He said he had been calling for regulation of imports for years.
He wants to see a paper trail linking vehicle imports to a specific driver and a law preventing the vehicle from being resold for at least a year. That would prevent people bringing in cars in someone else’s name and selling them on, he said.
He also endorses restrictions on the age of vehicles imported to the islands.
He said Cayman could look to other Caribbean countries to see what restrictions to put in place.
Jamaica, for example, only allows residents to import one car every three years.
Campbell believes similar limits should be in place in the Cayman Islands. He said everyone should be required to get a special permit to import a vehicle to the territory and recommended stricter restrictions for visitors and work permit holders.
He said, “I brought this issue up for the first time in 2007 and it has only got worse since then. We have to put a stop to it. It may already be too late. We have too many cars in Cayman.”
He said unlicensed traders were a threat to legitimate businesses because they did not pay business licensing fees, maintain proper facilities or pay health and pension benefits.
He said their lack of expertise also raised the risk of unsafe cars being put on the road.