by Aaron Smith
The February 2009 issue of Caribbean Compass reported on the implementation of eSeaClear, the Caribbean Pre-Arrival Notification system. This is an online service that provides yacht operators with the ability to submit electronic notifications of arrival to participating Customs administrations in the Caribbean. ESeaClear was developed by the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) as part of a Regional Clearance System set up to facilitate the processing of yachts traveling around the Caribbean.
ESeaClear is a voluntary system, based on a standardized Customs clearance form. It gives yacht skippers the option of filling out Customs clearance forms on-line in advance of arrival at a port of entry, rather than filling out forms by hand upon arrival. The on-line form, found at www.eSeaClear.com, asks for routine data similar to that on the various existing paper Customs forms. After the first data entry, subsequent uses are easy because all data is stored.
The eSeaClear-using skipper must still go to Customs to clear in. There, you give the Customs officer your pre-arrival notification (PAN) I.D. number provided by the on-line system. (Your name will also work, if you've forgotten your number.) The Customs officer will pull up your form on his computer and print it out for you to sign. Any fees will be paid as usual.
Since February, the implementation of the eSea-Clear system has been continuous and the service is now available in 14 island nations and territories: Aruba, Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Maarten, and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. Every port within each country may not yet be eSeaClear compliant. To address this, only ports that are currently able to handle eSeaClear are available in the drop-down list; users will not be able to submit notification to ports that are not yet ready.
Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago will soon be able to accept eSeaClear notifications. The Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) is working with the remaining islands to implement the program sometime in the New Year.
CCLEC has received many valuable comments and recommendations from yacht skippers throughout the course of early site usage, and as a result we have made the following changes:
• Passport fields can now accept alphanumeric characters
• Vessel Dimensions input field can now accept decimal point notation
• Vessel Tonnage (weight) input field can now accept decimal points
• Motor Brands are now open text so you are now able to type in any brand as well as utilize a drop-down list
• The date picker has been updated to make date navigation and selection quick and simple
For added convenience, we have included a Help section that includes a full site manual and FAQ. The user manual deals with all aspects of site usage and is beneficial in familiarizing users with using the system and thereby improving the user experience. The manual is available in PDF format for immediate download.
The site is also equipped with a feedback option that can be used for support requests, making recommendations, or simply to share some insight on your experience while using the service.
In May, Keats Compton of the regional yacht trades' umbrella group, the Caribbean Marine Association (CMA), met with members of the CCLEC to discuss the system and it was agreed that CCLEC would improve cooperation with CMA through the signing of an MOU. Some additional recommendations were made for the improvement of the system, which CCLEC will take forward in the next phase of the project.
By popular request, the system will be adapted so that users are able to make notifications for both parts of their voyage, i.e. Arrival and Departure. This means that vessel operators will be able to submit notifications of departure to Customs ahead of time and be facilitated in the same way arrivals are done.
The system was designed to help facilitate vessel operations with the process of Customs clearance in the region. Hassle-free movement between the islands is our goal and CCLEC has been working hard with Caribbean countries to standardize the clearance requirements but getting all stakeholders on board can be a challenge. We will continue to work to streamline the clearance process, thereby making your visit in the region as seamless as possible.
If you have any questions or comments please contact us - we would be happy to hear from you. Our contact: [email protected] or [email protected].
Aaron Smith is the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council's ITC Officer. Visit the eSeaClear website at www.eSeaClear.com.
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