Port Authority, Customs and Border Control Instrumental during Crisis
During the COVID-19 crisis, much of the focus has been on first responders, food delivery services, restaurants and supermarkets but Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control (CBC) and the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands are among many unsung heroes, who have been at the forefront of protecting Cayman’s shores from the virus and making sure essential businesses were able to continue to source supplies; both during and after the lockdown.
With vast testing continuing to turn up no new cases of COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands for roughly one month now, many around the region and indeed, the entire world, have been praising COVID-19 response efforts in the British Territory.
The Caymanian Times spoke exclusively with Acting Port Director Mr. Joseph Woods, who shared some of the measures that were put in place by the Port Authority, along with the CBC to protect Cayman's shores from any outside threat of COVID-19 infection.
Mr. Woods noted that strict protocols for cargo ships and their personnel were put into place from the start of the crisis, adding that Port staff have little contact with persons onboard the cargo vessels.
“The ship’s personnel are not permitted onto shore for any reason whatsoever,” noted the Acting Director, who noted, “All of our directives come straight from the Customs and Border Control.”
Mr. Woods pointed out that Port staff have to go aboard the vessel in order to discharge it, however, he noted that there is no mixing of staff.
“The only contact we have is when we go on board to declare that we are the Port Authority,” he said, adding that it is usually about 4 to 6 Port Staff involved such activities.
“There is more of a risk of us giving it to them than the other way around,” he explained, citing the fact that the operators of such ships are usually at sea for vast amounts of time, with little to no contact with anyone outside their vessel.
“Before they come to the Cayman Islands, we receive a list of the crew and whether there have been any illnesses and we gather as much information about the individuals as possible and they are usually at sea for months,” he remarked.
“I am proud to say that none of our staff tested positive for COVID-19 at any time during the crisis,” added the Port’s top man.
Another area in which the Port Authority assisted the transition of the Cayman Islands trough this difficult time was with regard to providing exemptions for businesses on goods that were shipped so businesses could still take delivery of the items, despite not generating their normal income; a move which freed up much needed space in the warehouses and kept businesses that were able to operate fluent. The strategy also meant that when it was time for business to resume, supplies were already on Island.
Over 40 containers were able to be processed during the period because of these concessions.
Many businesses were forced to rent warehouses to story their excess goods, leading to a shortage in warehouses available for rental in George Town, according to Mini-warehouses in the Industrial Park.
With regard to sailboats that pass through the Cayman Island from time to time and stop for fuel and supplies, Mr. Woods said persons on such vessels had to apply to ‘Travel Time’ and CBC, who would then clear them as contactless as possible.
“They also do not come ashore and in the event that they are stopping, they would then need to quarantine for 14 days and produce a negative COVID-19 test result,” said Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods said the coordination of the Government and all agencies was something he was proud to be a part of, stating:
“All of Government was faced with challenges but the coordination was really well done. The policies were based on professional advice and everyone did their part to put us in the position we are in now.”
The Cayman Islands were moved from ‘sporadic’ to ‘no cases’ on Wednesday, 12th August with regard to COVID-19.
The Territory however, still appears on a watch list of travel destinations issued by the United States Government recently; despite achieving the highly coveted ‘no cases’ distinction.
The US travel advisory list ranges from 1 to 4, (1.Exercise normal precautions; 2. Exercise increased caution; 3. Reconsider travel; 4. Do not travel)
Cayman has been listed as level 3, (Reconsider Travel), according to the travel.state.gov website.
Tourism officials in the Cayman Islands have acknowledged anomaly. However, no official statement has been issued by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (DOT) on the discrepancy.
By Caymanian Times Senior Journalist