NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Customs Department yesterday announced it is exercising more scrutiny over private aircraft operations into Abaco after it received reports some storm relief flights were also transporting commercial cargo.
“In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, many private aircraft were transporting humanitarian relief supplies into the country under the various Exigency Orders,” read a statement.
“They were not processed on Click2Clear and had no need to be familiar with the system, because private aircrafts are not integrated into the online system as yet. However, Customs is finding through its assessments and enhanced monitoring that some private aircrafts may be running commercial cargo operations, even though some of the supplies being transported are for Hurricane Dorian restoration activities.
“As a result, Customs is exercising more scrutiny over these operations to prevent abuse of the system under the guise of humanitarian relief. Any abuse of the system does a disservice to Abaco and to the country.All commercial operators must follow the same rules when it comes to importing cargo. And if they are unfamiliar with Click2Clear, and if they are not licensed, they have to fulfill the necessary requirements to operate like everyone else.”
Customs issued a statement yesterday in response to a Tribune article on the decision to block Abaco Freight’s regular flights, and fears the move would setback the island’s post-Dorian recovery.
The article also pointed to recent changes regarding the use of Click2Clear at ports in Abaco, including the introduction of Customs’ Electronic Single Window (ESW).
“No recent changes have been made regarding the use of Click2Clear at ports in Abaco, as the system has been back online for Customs processing since October,” the statement read.
“Customs had reverted to some manual processes after Hurricane Dorian however the online system has been running on island and remotely for months.
“For the past two years, during the implementation of the new online Customs processing system, the Department has been standardizing operations, which is requiring local and foreign businesses to operate on a level playing field.
It continued: “Abaco is very equipped to provide licensed brokerage and courier services to the business community, and the island is not dependent on a single company for Customs processing. Most established Abaco businesses are already using Click2Clear successfully. To date, there are seven licensed brokers, couriers and shipping agents in Abaco.”
Customs said that it continues to invest heavily in Customs Modernization in order to eliminate all irregular processes that were present in the past.
It furthered that in some of the smaller ports in the country, Customs officers would assist businesses with Customs processing.
“Customs has put a stop to these informal practices, which means businesses must manage their own Customs processing,” the statement read.
“Businesses must have a licensed broker or courier to take responsibility for processing their goods.”
It was noted that under the SERZ order that came into effect December 2019, the Government created unique concession codes for Abaco and Grand Bahama, which means relief supplies can still be imported without duty or VAT being charged.
However, all goods must be manifested and declared, whether intended for humanitarian or commercial purposes.
The statement added: “Customs has been working hand in hand with businesses to support the smooth running of the ports: Many businesses are already compliant and others are working collaboratively and cooperatively with Customs to satisfy all of their requirements.”