By Lindsey Turnbull
Since the closure of Cayman’s borders in March 2020 to all but essential travel, the level of imports into the country increased dramatically in 2020 and is set to continue the trend for 2021.
An analysis of the types of imports residents are bringing into the Cayman Islands via either air, sea, or courier (but not by passenger or parcel post), finds the majority fall into the category of “Other”, according to Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control statistics. This includes items such as food, clothing and household goods, some items that residents would traditionally bring into the country themselves after a shopping trip to the US. Now, CBC is seeing big increases in these items being shipped in. “Other” items made up about two thirds of the CBC’s revenue stream for 2020, while duty on cars and then diesel/gas made up the next largest sectors, followed by alcohol and to a lesser extent, tobacco.
A comparison of the Customs Online System (COLS) submissions for the last four years shows a relatively steady increase in imports year on year when looking at statistics from October 2019 (when the CBC began to process all imports online).
In October 2019 there were around 16,000 imports noted on the CBC system. By October 2020 there were about 22,500 such imports. This figure had increased sharply since April 2020 when imports nose-dived following border closure to just less than 9,000, but then surged to a record 29,000 (approximately) for the end of that year. 2021 started off just a bit below that figure, but has climbed ever since.
Kevin Walton, Deputy Director of CBC, said they believed the upward trend in increased imports would continue for a while yet and that CBC had therefore deployed specific strategies and its Business Continuity Plan to manage the increase.
“Officers that were assigned to the border (airport), were redeployed to assist with the increase of imports as travel is restricted and the CBC uses risk and compliant management strategies to help manage cross-border transactions,” he advised.
In addition, their automated imports processing systems COLS (external portal) and CIMS (internal system) would help to smooth the import process.
“We established a Customer Support Centre to assist with the increase and reengineered modern business processes to enhance trade facilitation and border control,” he stated. “In addition, we have enhanced partnerships with key stakeholders.”
Mr Walton said that last year’s delays in getting imported goods to residents was down to a number of reasons, in particular couriers on island which were not prepared for the huge increase in demand once the lock down in Cayman was lifted in October 2020. There were also many people on island who were inexperienced in the import procedure, slowing the system down further. With the above-mentioned processes now in place it is anticipated, as we gear up for the traditionally busy latter half of the year, the process should not encounter last year’s delays.