Used cars destined for Cayman remain parked in Jamaica

Exporters to halt service here until car backlog is cleared.

Imported cars sit at Cayman's Customs and Border Control facility in George Town. - Photo Taneos Ramsay

Several hundred used vehicles destined for buyers in Cayman are sitting at a port in Kingston, Jamaica.

The majority of the vehicles were purchased online from Asian suppliers, such as Japan-based Beforward, which has now suspended exports to Cayman.

A Beforward spokesperson, in a letter to partnering businesses, confirmed service to the Cayman Islands is being suspended for April and May.

“It is due to cargo congestion at [George Town] port in [the] Cayman Islands, because of undelivered vehicles at the port. Cargoes on the way to [Cayman Islands] will be delivered once the situation has been resolved,” the letter reads.

The Cayman Compass contacted Port Authority Acting Director Joseph Woods, who said he was aware of the backlog but his department is not at fault.

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“There is ample storage for cars at all of our locations,” Woods said. “There is a backlog of cars, but that is located in Jamaica, and we have been trying to resolve the situation [with] Seaboard Marine, which is the company that transports the vehicles from Jamaica to Cayman.”

Seaboard Marine gave a different account of the situation to the Compass, saying they would like to get the vehicles shipped to Cayman, but the Port Authority dictates how many vehicles they can bring in on a weekly basis.

“The delays for the vehicles/cars in transit and for the ones sitting on the port in Jamaica are outside of our control,” said Seaboard Marine general manager Robert Foster.

He said the process is further complicated because the vehicles come from a host of Asian countries, each of which has its own shipping agent in Jamaica.

“The respective agent in Kingston must process transshipment documents with Jamaica Customs, after which they would make a booking with Seaboard Jamaica for us to ship from Kingston to Grand Cayman,” Foster said.

“There is a transshipment process that must be followed in order to book and ship all vehicles. It is not as simple as picking up the vehicles we currently have on the Kingston wharf, and simply [loading] to our vessel.

“Space and the size of Cayman port also play an integral part as to the amount and sheer volume in which cars are being imported, which far exceed the port’s size and draft for a small island,” he said, adding that there are two other carriers who ship vehicles to Cayman, which also contributes to the backlog.

Woods confirmed that there were weekly vehicle limits that were set for Seaboard.

However, he said Seaboard has consistently imported fewer than the number of vehicles allowed, because of what he suspects are “capacity issues with the company’s vessels”.

Woods said another issue that he suspects may be contributing to the backlog is the current COVID-19-suppression measures being implemented by the Jamaican government.

The Compass reached out to the Port Authority of Jamaica and was initially told that no one would be in the office until 19 April, when lockdown restrictions are expected to be lifted. Questions about the cause of the backlog, and the current number of vehicles in the port, were sent to the Jamaican Port Authority, but no reply had been received by press time.

A spokesperson for the Kingston port did confirm that the Cayman vehicle storage area had reached full capacity and no more vehicles would be taken in until the backlog was cleared.

The exact number of vehicles that are currently at the Kingston port is unclear. However, Woods said he has been told that one vessel en route to Jamaica is carrying 800 vehicles destined for Cayman. This shipment is expected to add to the backlog.

The situation has frustrated companies and private importers who say they have been waiting for vehicles, some of which have been sitting at the Jamaican port for nearly a month.

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  1. Attention Somebody new in Government .. Please Fix the Port and Customs to streamline imports. I’m tired of the director of Customs and Port heads telling us everything is fine when it’s obvious to anyone who imports goods on a regular basis how rigid, broken and and poorly managed the process is. Let’s start this new election term right by streamlining Customs and the Port to improve the daily lives of Caymanians and residents by opening the free flow of goods and serving our people better.