2020, December 01: When the former British, French, Spanish and Dutch colonies moved into various forms of political independence, their peoples adopted or adapted methods and procedures inherited from their colonisers. In the Caribbean, this resulted in a multiplicity of languages and archaic systems and standards welling in the same sea.

With post-colonial states and territories applying different methods and requiring information in different formats and units, trade and traffic through the Caribbean with more than 20 sovereign states and protected territories was difficult and time-consuming. For context: there are 14 different Central Banks and 13 different currencies in daily use across the region. This intraregional conglomeration of bureaucracies has had the collective effect of creating barriers, silos of interest and even animosity between subsectors and public sector departments and agencies.

The consequences were far more than a mere inconvenience. Over time, they created inefficiencies and crippling diseconomies. But far worse, they made port and cargo operations susceptible to malfeasance and skulduggery. Indeed, data capture for planning regional public and private sector initiatives often suffered from a lack of comparable data sets. It is against this background that the Caribbean received the news on November 25, 2020 that territories grouped in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are about to turn the page to a new chapter in modernisation.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has started work with the Caricom Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) to create a maritime single window for travel and trade. The announcement was made by CDB’s Director of Projects, Daniel Best, on November 25, 2020 in a ceremony delivered online from CDB’s Barbados headquarters. The ceremony formally launched the Integrated Border Systems in the OECS project.

To get this initiative going, the CDB provided US$300,400 from its Special Development Fund. And the Standby Facility Steering Committee of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) approved a project disbursement of US$350,070 on November 12, 2020.

Streamline, Simplify, Coordinate

The single window will streamline, simplify and coordinate systems and complex processes involved in moving passengers and cargo through multiple OECS seaports with different systems and legal requirements. The 11-member OECS, which will celebrate 40 years on June 18, 2021, includes Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

With what amounts to a one-stop shop for processing the myriad transactions involved in shipping and port operations, this integrated maritime solution facilitates seamless collaboration between all players – tax and border protection entities, customs and excise authorities, port authorities and terminal operators; and, private sector stakeholders, including customs brokers, shipping agents, freight consolidators, etc.

A Maritime Single Window creates efficiencies and streamlines what is a highly complex and regulated process involving many actors at the same time. Its worth is measured by the multiplicity of benefits and economies it generates for all stakeholders.

As Chamberlain Emmanuel, head of environmental sustainability at the OECS Commission observed in the moment: “The Maritime Single Window solution is best poised to interact with existing and future systems in order to enhance the efficiency and predictability of the free movement of citizens, residents and tourists travelling on ferries and cruises across the region and wider international community.”

As regards the cruise business in which Caribbean countries have a significant investment, Mr. Best said that customs authorities will benefit from an upgraded passenger portal to operationalise the Maritime Single Window built-in risk management capacity. []


– Mike Jarrett