Grenada is one of two OECS members which has approved the decisions and actions related to ease of travel in the OECS region, which include full clearance of travellers at the initial port of entry.
In January 2013 the OECS Council of Tourism Ministers approved the action areas proposed at a workshop, to facilitate ease of travel within the OECS, which also include: harmonisation of procedures to collect departure taxes; enhanced compatibility of software for information sharing; and harmonisation of standard operating procedures and improvements to service quality at OECS borders.
Providing an update on the process, a release from the OECS Secretariat said that Chief Immigration Officers and Comptrollers of Customs from across the OECS recently met in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for a working session geared towards implementing the Action Plan.
Upon request by Ministers for Tourism, the OECS Secretariat submitted a brief on the decisions to Ministers, for consideration of their respective national Cabinets. “So far, the Ministers for Tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada have reported that Cabinets in these two Member States had approved the decisions and actions related to ease of travel in the OECS region,” said a release from the Secretariat.
Dr. Loraine Nicholas programme officer in the OECS Secretariat’s Economic Affairs Division says the recent workshop in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from 11–12 September 2013, focused on providing definitive advice to the relevant Ministerial Councils.
“It looked at the changes necessary, whether in respect of legislation, regulations, administrative practice, infrastructure or otherwise, to operationalise the actions that have been agreed at the technical level or political level,” she said.
Some of the changes proposed at the workshop include the reconfiguration of infrastructure and facilities at airports. In addition to immigration checkpoints there should also be separate gates or channels for intra-regional travelers to distinguish them from other categories of visitors. It was also suggested that the regulations for immigration and customs should be harmonised due to variations that currently exist across the region relating to areas such as accompanied baggage allowances and maximum currency allowances.
The OECS Secretariat also committed to coordinating a regional training programme for border control officers in the final quarter of this year. The training will cover areas such as customer service, good practices and standard operating procedures. It is intended that this training would provide a basis for the development of a training manual for border control officers in the OECS.
Support from the European Union in facilitating ease of travel across OECS Member States is being provided under the project Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region.
That project administered by the OECS Secretariat and is financed out of resources from the 10th EDF regional programme. It seeks to contribute to the establishment of the OECS Economic Union as a single economic and financial space through the development of a harmonized policy, legislative, regulatory and administrative framework, as well as the enhancement of the institutional capacity and export competitiveness of OECS economies.