Less hoops please!
I can’t tell you how many times that friends and/or blog readers, knowing that certain items are difficult to obtain down here, have offered to ship us something. In most cases though, unless it is something that we truly need right away, we tend to decline the offer, with genuine thanks, of course. The reason we decline is simply that receiving a package down here is never an easy one-step process, nor is anything ever free. It is not like most people are used to back in North America.
There has recently been a bit of drama here in Grenada relating to the importation of goods by cruisers, especially by those returning to the country via the airport with boat parts in their bags. Grenada does allow cruisers to import boat parts at a reduced duty of only 2.5%. This is a good thing! In order to obtain that reduced duty though, certain forms, specifically a C14, first need to be obtained from a customs officer. Of course, if you just flew in to the country with parts in your possession, there is no way to acquire this document without leaving your stuff at the airport and returning at a later time. Remember that most cruisers don’t have a car! Just recently the government has started requiring that a customs broker also be hired to obtain this lower duty amount. While I thought that this extra step only related to receiving goods at the airport, I found out yesterday that this is not the case.
Since July we have been working with Mantus Anchors to acquire a new anchor for our Amel. At my request, they shipped one to St. Thomas for us as, at the time, we had friends who were planning on coming south, and I thought that we could all save money by having them bring it down to us on their boat. As often happens with cruisers though, our friends changed their plans, and they did not come down. That anchor has since then been sitting in storage in St. Thomas instead of sitting on our bow.
Several weeks ago Mantus shipped a second anchor to us here in Grenada. The 85 lb. package, split into two pieces, was sent by USPS. I have followed the shipment as best as I could but, unfortunately, their tracking data was next to useless. The USPS tracking site has shown the package as clearing customs for the past 5 days. Thinking (hoping!) that maybe it might be available, Rebecca and I went out yesterday to try to find it.
An issue that people may not fully grasp is that without a car, running around from place to place is not a simple procedure. Rebecca and I took our dinghy to the closest spot we could find by the post office, the local ferry dock. Knowing that we weren’t really permitted to leave our tender there, Rebecca stayed with the dingy while I made a “quick” trip to the post office.
The good news is that I found our package. The bad news is that, after some delay, I was sent to the customs office, and then to find a broker, and then back to the customs office to pay, and then back to the post office once again to pay another fee, and finally, to collect the package. After jumping through all of those hoops, a process which took several hours (remember Rebecca was in the dinghy?), I was ultimately able to pay the reduced duty amount (as opposed to the 27% that I was told would be the normal amount). With that added to the brokerage fee, we were out of pocket only about $50.00 US. Only! The fact that it took a good chunk of our day to receive a simple package is the real problem.
What are the alternatives? It is my understanding that if items are shipped by FedEx that a customs broker does not need to be involved (I think FedEx uses their in-house broker). A C14 is still required though. The other alternative is to simply move to another island to receive goods. St. Maarten, for example, is a duty free island, and having received packages there before, I can say that the process is much more streamlined.
While I think that the importation process is overly cumbersome, I should point out that the individuals I dealt with were, as we’ve come to expect with Grenadians, all very pleasant and accommodating. I do hope that the powers to be come to realize that by making things easier, they will increase their revenue as it will encourage boaters to do more business here on island.