Senate approves changes to Customs Act
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
STARTING WEDNESDAY, all ships or aircraft arriving in Jamaica will be required to supply the commissioner of customs with an advance list of all passengers or cargo that are to arrive on the country's shores.
The provision, which comes into force following the passage of an amendment to the Customs Act in the Parliament last week, will allow Jamaican authorities to fall in line with international best practices in customs matters. Under the new arrangements, Jamaica will use the automated Systems for Customs Data as a central part of its operations.
The Customs Act does not currently provide for the mandatory use of any system. This deficiency is an impediment to Jamaica Customs operations, Justice Minister Mark Golding said as he piloted the bill through the Senate last Friday.
The House of Representative passed the bill last Tuesday.
The advance passage information system, which is similar to the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) developed by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency, will require commercial airlines to provide information such as identification details of passengers to the destination system.
Protection from threats
According to Golding, this will allow Jamaica Customs to effect "better border control in an environment where terrorism, money laundering and organised crimes are real threats".
"The high volume of passenger traffic which comes as a result of Jamaica being an established tourism destination may be processed with a more efficient manner using APIS," said Golding.
The amended Customs Act requires that masters of an aircraft or ship, or the owner or agent of the vessel, before arrival in Jamaica, provide certain information in a prescribed form to the commissioner.
The information required includes the estimated time of arrival, the areas in which the vessel will arrive, a list of any of the aircraft's or ship's cargo for discharge in Jamaica; a list of any of the aircraft's or ship's cargo that is not intended for discharge in Jamaica; a list of cargo that is intended to be discharged and later trans-shipped; and a list of all passengers and crew on board the aircraft and ship.
The law requires that this information, in the case of a ship, be sent 24 hours before arrival in Jamaica, and in the case of an aircraft, no later than 15 minutes after departure of aircraft for Jamaica.
Golding said the integration of the new electronic systems which will be allowed with the amendment of the Customs Act will result in a reduction in the administrative cost for the processing of shipments and will allow "at least 60 per cent of shipments to leave Jamaica's port of entry on the same day on which those shipments arrive".