Sun | Feb 5, 2023

MoBay port pilots contactless clearance to improve process

Published:Friday | December 2, 2022 | 12:11 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Items are searched at the Jamaica Customs Agency’s warehouse at Port Handlers in Montego Bay.
Items are searched at the Jamaica Customs Agency’s warehouse at Port Handlers in Montego Bay.

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) and the Montego Bay-based Port Handlers Limited are expressing confidence that the new contactless clearance pilot will improve efficiency and tighten border security.

The new Inspection Process Reform System, which was spearheaded in 2020, is intended to significantly reduce the wait times for importers to clear goods from the port, which can currently take as long as eight hours or more in a day.

The system is projected for a full roll-out on April 1, 2023.

Shaun Cochrane, port manager at Port Handlers Limited, told The Gleaner on Thursday that he is looking forward to the greater ease of clearing goods for importers and the agency.

“In order to facilitate the contactless clearance process, we have put it as the number-one priority, in terms of the number of customers that we serve. We have put in place the resources to ensure [its success],” said Cochrane.

“When persons come to the security gate, the priority is first determined in terms of their registration ... It will be about faster delivery, fewer people being on the port, and us managing the amount of cargo that usually stays in the warehouse for protracted periods,” Cochrane added.

Along with eliminating the need for importers or their agents to visit the physical port site to inspect their goods, contactless clearance is aimed at allowing the port to serve more than the 250 importers it currently processes daily.

In the ongoing pilot phase, a space has been earmarked at Port Handlers Limited’s warehouse and outfitted with surveillance cameras for the secure inspection of goods and to ensure the safety of importers’ property. Special technology is also used to scan the contents of each container, eliminating the need for inspectors to make several trips between the office and the examination area as was the norm.

Kingsley Henry, the Jamaica Customs Agency’s director of cargo imaging and the project manager for contactless clearance, told The Gleaner that a risk- assessment process is used to determine how much examination is needed for goods to reduce clearance time.

“If you talk about ‘get the guns’ or about the movement of contraband, when Customs is able to interact in the inspection space with cargo, and utilise risk management and scanning as one process, then we are able to be more effective at protecting the borders,” said Henry.

“What Customs is working on now, in terms of modernising the use of scanning, is that if we scan a barrel and the customer declares groceries, and you scan it and all you see is groceries, then we can weigh the need to further have that barrel opened and dug down to the bottom. We have technology that allows us to see more than the naked eye can see,” Henry explained. “When somebody has concealed something in a jug or a box of cereal, you cannot see that with the naked eye unless you open it and empty it on the table. But the scanning technology that we utilise allows us to see that.”

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com