Growing Concerns Over Shipping Clearance Ahead of Christmas

There's growing frustration among some customers who have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of items purchased online and shipped to Belize by consolidators. It's an industry that many have gotten into, conveying goods to Belize that are bought in the United States. Recently there have been concerns that items that were purchased, in some cases, back in October, are yet to be cleared by the Customs and Excise Department for delivery. There is also the likelihood that many of those items will not be delivered in time for gift giving on Christmas Day. Earlier today, we spoke with Delroy Fairweather, a customs broker who is familiar with the situation.

Delroy Fairweather, Customs Broker

"That's a kind of unfortunate situation. I think, coupled with the late arrivals in some of the vessels and scheduling with some of these consolidators, what happened is that you find out that some persons, well some of these consolidators are having some issues getting their cargo cleared. Now, this is not any fault, I don't really want to cast any blame on anyone because obviously if you are in logistics, you would need to know when to order and when to ship, et cetera, but it seems as if for the last couple weeks they have been experiencing some issues. Again, these consolidators would have to be the one to say exactly what issues they are faced with and why it is that they are not getting these cargos cleared. But I know for a fact that this week which is the Christmas week, there has been a surge in the containers that are coming in with consolidations and what has happened is that maybe some of them were not prepared to get those stuff cleared. In particular, I can tell you that as a customs broker, our job is to actually do the preparation of the documentation and follow through with getting the goods to the examination shed. What the Customs Department has done, knowing that it is the holiday season, they have actually extended the examination hours up to nine o'clock in the night."

What we understand from credible sources within the Customs and Excise Department is that there has been an increase in the number of contraband items, including compressed, high-grade marijuana, being shipped to Belize from the United States. Out of an abundance of caution, shipping containers are being searched thoroughly and swept for illegal cargo. This, inevitably, delays the turnaround time for clearance. While Fairweather could not speak on that issue, he explained what a hundred percent examination is in the context of searching for contraband.

Delroy Fairweather, Customs Broker

"There's always this possibility that if there's a window of an opportunity, stuff like that would occur. I know from the little bit that I know about consolidation containers which would be like these barrels and boxes, persons would normally just find the consolidators to ship their stuff with; customs then, would ensure that they do a hundred percent examination. That kind of slows down the process a bit because of course they are looking to see if there is anything illicit in these containers, but not to the point where it would create any unnecessary delays because if you would have a hundred persons in that container, it's not a hundred persons that would be, if they are doing anything illegal, would be bringing illegal items into the country. So if there is any semblance of that, or if it's any situations where they would find stuff like that, they would know how to address that. It's a kind of a new market really. A lot of people are venturing into consolidations because we know, of course, the Belizean diaspora communities within the U.S. is pretty huge. People would try and get into this market because they're figuring it's something lucrative for them that they could make monies from it, but they are underestimating all the factors that are involved and if you are someone new to this and you are just collecting cargo for people to bring into Belize and you don't understand the process, then this is where the delays are created."

Channel 5