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Enhanced Customs Efficiency

Assistant Collector of Customs, Mr. Kevin Walton

When Assistant Collector of Customs, Mr. Kevin Walton was given the go ahead to implement the new system he urged for use at Owen Roberts International Airport, even he did not expect it would work as well as it has.

Introduced in April last year, the colour-coded Customs clearance system arriving passengers go through has proven its worth many times over, Mr. Walton, the Customs manager of the airport and general aviation terminals, said.

Arriving passengers are streamed through three channels - green for those with nothing to declare; yellow and red for persons who have goods to declare or should have but did not. One immediate result: a better flow of passengers.

Previously, Customs officers had to adopt a full confrontational approach and question every passenger coming through. "We found the outdated system had outgrown its usefulness. So we adopted the more modern primary/secondary clearance system," Mr. Walton explained, one that is in force in most developed countries.

The new system has generally speeded up customs clearance for incoming passengers. "Whereas we had to rush before, it allows us to use our time more efficiently, and we're better able to concentrate on those we are interested in verifying."

The result was increase revenue at the Airport Section of 6.7percent from April 09 to December 09. Also, it has enhanced enforcement capabilities and netted more contraband, he revealed. However, due to lower air arrivals the revenue and other items have since decreased for this year, he added.

Additionally, it does not hinder how officers clear passengers arriving on flights considered at higher risk for not declaring dutiable goods or smuggling of contraband. The system has enabled the installation of extra tools to help officers screen bags, including an x-ray machine in the arrival hall.

"So far, we have received more positive feedback than negative from users, especially from tourists who state they have found the system to be very user friendly," commented Mr. Walton.

"We strive to minimise negative experiences for honest passengers and I apologise if some have experienced any. But we are taking a proactive approach and we will continue to," Mr. Walton stressed.

He leads a team of 42 consisting of 24 customs officers, six senior customs officers, four cashiers and eight porters. Most satisfying for him, the system has also improved job satisfaction for his staff, especially front-line officers who are no longer in a rush when clearing arriving passengers.

"This system has already proved to be an asset by enhancing our capabilities and improving operational efficiency at the airport," commented Customs Collector Carlon Powery. "Our hard working officers are able to offer better service to visitors and residents alike while also being more capable of dealing with those who break the law."

(GIS)

For further information contact: Bina Mani