November 27, 2012 | 6:48 pm | Print
Above: Jamaica Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips and the UNODC’s Troels Vester (JIS Photo)
Looking to enhance security at the country’s ports, Jamaica has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Customs Organization Container Control Programme.
The MoU was signed by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips and Troels Vester, programme manager for the UNODC.
“This MoU establishes and recognizes that a funded and enhanced partnership now exists between the government of Jamaica, through the Ministries of Finance, National Security and Transport and Works and the UNODC and the World Customs Organization, to improve port security and to prevent the unlawful use of cargo containers for activities, such as illicit drug trafficking, smuggling of goods, tax evasion and possible terrorist acts,” Phillips said.
As part of the agreement, the UNODC will provide technical assistance, analytics tools, computer stations and other equipment to help identify drugs and chemicals in containers at the country’s ports.
Jamaica is the first Caribbean country to join the programme, according to Vester, which he said was significant given Kingston’s role as a transshipment hub.
Already 14 officers have begun training under the programme, which began November 26.
The Container Control Units plan to become operational by Dec. 10.
Phillips said that the programme could also help the ports earn more revenue.
“The mislabeling of containers leads to significant revenue evasion at the ports,” he said. “Given our current fiscal situation, Jamaica critically needs the revenues to execute vital programmes and we also want to establish a general atmosphere of law abiding behaviour in our ports and elsewhere,” he said.
Also attending the ceremony was US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater, who said the US was proud to work with Canada in supporting the programme.
“This collaboration, we firmly believe, will result in helping to preserve the security of Jamaica’s borders, and we think that it is going to be very important to ensure that the large number of shipping containers that pass through Jamaica do not contain illicit goods, such as narcotics, guns and other illicit substances,” she said. “But equally important, it will be very good to know that the speedy shipment and processing of legitimate goods will be facilitated, which will be an important factor in enhancing Jamaica’s economy.”
The MoU follows a letter of intent signed in June.