OF the 80,000 shipping containers that enter this country every year only about 16,000 are checked.
Acting chief executive officer (CEO) of the Port of Port of Spain, Trudy Gill-Conlon, made this disclosure yesterday when the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago appeared before the Joint Select Committee (Group 2) at the J Hamilton Maurice Room of the Parliament.
While only 20 per cent of the shipping containers entering this country are checked, none of those exiting usually are, Gill-Conlon said.
Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Alicia Hospedales questioned the “porousness” of this nation’s borders following the seizure of more than 700 pounds of cocaine in the United States from the Port of Port of Spain last year.
Gill-Conlon said Customs was responsible for checking containers leaving the ports.
“The decision on whether a particular container should be opened, whether it is import, export or transshipment is determined by Customs. Customs is the intelligence unit that is responsible for that. The port is not directly responsible for opening and we do not have the jurisdiction to open containers, Customs has to direct that,” Gill-Conlon said.
Gill-Conlon said traditionally export containers are not checked.
“Traditionally, I have been on the port for the past ten years, export containers are not opened leaving the country,” she said.
Gill-Conlon said last year 383,000 “20-foot equivalent units” were handled by the port of Port of Spain.
This amounts to 350,000 shipping containers, she said.
Of that number, 52 per cent are transshipment while 48 per cent form imports and exports.
Hospedales questioned if “random checks” were done.
Gill-Conlon said that was not the purview of the port of Port of Spain.
“The Port Authority is the custodian of cargo our security measure that we have in place are to ensure while your container is at the port that it is not opened, something is not put into it and it is not stolen. Once it enters the port we have to ensure it is secured,” she said.
Containers only enter the port once there is “proper documentation,” she said.
Customs is responsible for searches, she added.
“How Customs decides if a container is examined randomly is through intelligence so Customs, basically, they are the ones who determine,” she said.
Gill-Conlon said on a daily basis some 40 import containers are searched.