Media Release - AMCHAM T&T Calls For Comprehensive Operational Overhaul Of Customs And Leadership


Over the last two weeks, issues regarding the clearance of goods at the nation’s ports, particularly the airport, have been in the news. Over the past several years, AMCHAM T&T, individually and in collaboration with other business organisations, has been raising the inadequacy of trade facilitation with the Customs & Excise Division, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Trade.

One of the main contributing factors to delays at the ports is the nature and timing of changes in operating procedures. This has been a constant source of concern to us and our members when such changes lead to acute challenges. We are grateful that some interventions by the Minister of Finance temporarily eased the situation. However, there have been no sustainable improvements to the processes and procedures that are supposed to enable trade facilitation and therefore improve the ease of doing business, a direct contributor to economic growth.

AMCHAM T&T is grateful to the Minister for responding to our call with respect to adjusting the short-term roster of staff at the airport. This change, which went into effect on Friday 15th December resulted in additional appointments and an increase in cargo being cleared. We understand that the backlogs, while improved, persist, and agree that there is more to be done. 

As such, we welcome the Minister’s commitment, following our meeting with him in June 2023, to streamlining the Joint Consultative Customs Committee (JCCC) and establishing a joint Customs and Private Sector committee to be chaired by a retired Permanent Secretary. We ask the Minister to convene this committee in short order so that the challenges plaguing the clearing of shipments can be dealt with expeditiously.

It must not be forgotten that trade facilitation is also one of the responsibilities of Customs, as is border protection and revenue collection. While AMCHAM T&T supports the efforts being made to strengthen border protection and revenue collection, these should not be to the detriment of trade facilitation. All three go together and none should benefit at the expense of another. 

We acknowledge that there are issues surrounding border protection that need to be addressed. That is the responsibility of the Government. We fully support legitimate efforts to prevent illegal items from entering the country. We have consistently reiterated this to the Government and our members. However, we have also been clear that these measures should be enabled by technology and data analytics and should not unduly affect the operations of legitimate businesses.

We have made several suggestions in person and in writing ranging from increased use of technology, rationalisation of shifts, the introduction of clear standard operating procedures (SoPs), and the introduction of a risk management approach to clearance underpinned by data to name just a few. It is difficult to understand, for example, why large volumes of packages that have been left unclaimed in transit sheds are not periodically auctioned by Customs. Nor is it clear why instructions by Customs about changes in procedures are often delivered verbally, with written versions either never being given or given several days after changes have been implemented.

AMCHAM T&T supports the operationalisation of the T&T Revenue Authority and believes that it can be a vehicle to assist with some of these issues. However, the TTRA is not required to make meaningful changes to the efficient operations of Customs, which would include ensuring that the Division is adequately staffed.

While we appreciate that tinkering here and there may result in short-term improvements, it is not a sustainable solution. What is required is a comprehensive operational overhaul of Customs and leadership to achieve this. The reality is that the operations of the nation's ports need significant improvement which we believe will be easier to attain via collaboration. 

We stand ready and are willing to assist.

For further questions or comments please contact Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T at


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