The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) celebrated its Forty Third Annual Conference via video conferencing during the period June 2nd – 3rd 2021.
Representatives of twenty-seven (27) member countries as well as a number of regional and international observers attended the sessions. Strategic partners included representatives of the World Customs Organization, the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP), Interpol, CDEMA, CDB, CICAD/OAS, Grenada Tourism Authority, Caribbean Law Enforcement Foundation (CLEF), Crime Stoppers, ICE and the Caribbean Brokers Association.
The Conference was preceded by a keynote address by Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation (WCO). In his address, the Secretary General emphasized WCO’s commitment to the region under the Small Island Economies initiative. He also announced the development of two new guidelines which will be beneficial to the region – a global data standard for cruise ships and a compendium of best practices in the cruise ship environment and guidelines on Disaster Management and Supply Chain Continuity. (WCO Secretary General speech)
Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on the global economies and the challenges facing Customs administrations to manage the borders during a pandemic, Council invited regional and international partners, to present on topics that were both informative and relevant to the current reality.
Mr. Kiheung Park, Data Analytics Specialist from the World Customs Organisation, presented on the WCO BACUDA project. The aim of this project is to help Customs build data analytics capacity using big data. Customs collects a myriad of data in processing goods and passengers and the proper use of this data will facilitate trade and travel while ensuring security and safety.
Ms. Nikoyan Roberts, Manager Nautical Development, Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) introduced the public and private sector partnership initiative implemented in Grenada to facilitate yacht arrival using the CCLEC pre arrival notification system, SailClear. Collaboration between CCLEC, MAYAG, Grenada Customs and GTA was key to making the initiative a success. Through the use of the system, data was made available to stakeholders in real time thus reducing the level of interaction with the border security agencies and general public. This enabled Grenada to effectively manage the Covid -19 pandemic in the maritime environment.
The Caribbean Development Bank representative, Ms. Andrea Power, Coordinator, Regional Cooperation and Integration, presented on the topic ‘Trade Facilitation: Innovating for a post-COVID-19 response”. She highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on trade and CDB’s response, the challenges of doing business in the region and the need to improve competitiveness to build resilient economies.
Another representative from the WCO, Mr. Oguz Onal, Programme Manager, Risk Management and Intelligence, made a presentation on “Customs Risk Management during a Pandemic”. In his presentation Mr. Onal outlined the challenges during a pandemic touching on topics such as: organizational arrangements, risk-based selectivity, cooperation and information exchange, technology support, officer’s health and safety and WCO’s tools and instruments related to pandemics.
The meeting welcomed a presentation by Mr. Andrés Bastidas, Criminal Intelligence Analyst from Interpol on the current threats and emerging trends in relation to the pandemic. According to Mr. Bastidas, during the pandemic criminals continued to operate their business as usual, but trends and threats are shifting from old classical ways to committing crimes using new approaches. He noted that in absence of commercial passenger flights, the transportation of drugs using maritime vessels and cargo is on the rise, criminals are also capitalizing on the pandemic to conceal drugs in medical products. Another observation is that the drug distribution chain, mostly in consumption countries, dealers are taking drugs from the streets to the Darknet avoiding in-person sales and delivering illicit drugs to consumers using well-known delivery services widely used in confinement conditions.
Criminals are also using the cyberspace and sophisticated technology to facilitate traditional criminal activities, for example phishing is increasingly being used to defraud victims online and to ultimately steal money from individuals and businesses.
Ms. Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) was invited to present on the regional response to the pandemic and the recent volcanic eruption in St Vincent and the role of Customs in law enforcement during the pandemic and beyond. She highlighted the Agency’s disaster management program and the regional response mechanism, noting the arrangements with various intuitions and the Agency’s governance structure. She acknowledged the important role Customs play in facilitation of relief goods in the aftermath of a disaster and the importance of border security, however, she cited a number of logistical challenges on the ground which obstruct the expeditious relief of containers and put forward some considerations for improvements.
Council also received reports on initiatives undertaken by the CCLEC since its last annual meeting. Key initiatives and programs announced include:
- Implementation of several IT tools which Customs will have at their disposal, including the Regional Aircraft Declaration System (RADS), Vessel Targeting System (VTS) and the Business Intelligence Software (BI) which will provide Customs with the ability to identify revenue leakage and systemic abuses. BI will also enable the generation of statistics and reports to support administrative decision making.
- The enhancement of the Regional Clearance System to Progressive Web Application. This is a timely improvement to the software as it will solve data entry and upload delays at ports for authorities and masters even in the presence of slow, unreliable internet connections.
- Implementation of online, capacity building courses, including the Junior Officer Basic course consisting of eighteen modules, a basic intelligence course, and advanced Classification, Rules of Origin, Trade Agreements and Risk Management modules.
CCLEC continues to value partnerships with like-minded organizations and this year the Council approved the establishment of MOUs with the Caribbean Law Enforcement Foundation and CBLA-Crime Stoppers. Both organizations were invited to present on their work to Council.
In closing the meeting, Mr. Albert Sandy, the Permanent Secretary of the CCLEC thanked delegates for their attendance and active participation in the meeting.