As we navigate the oceans of the world, we sometime find that it is more complex navigating the local officialdom than the high seas. In the case of Grenada, we have pretty much worked out what we need to do to import things at the lowest cost.
Import duty on the island is complex, and can get expensive. Most of the eastern Caribbean islands use a common customs schedule which is a large book that lists the duty due on thousands of different classes of goods. The amount due can vary from nominal (5% or less) to pretty steep (greater than 50%). And duty is calculated on the value of the goods PLUS shipping PLUS any taxes paid.
There are (legal!) ways around this for people in our situation. The exemption we can work within is for “ship’s stores.” A vessel in transit through Grenada to another country is allowed to buy and import things at a fixed rate of 2.5%. This can be done at the local chandleries, you show up with your boat paperwork (cruising permit, and documentation) and they register you for duty free purchases. Easy.
If you are actually importing things yourself it gets a bit more complex, and the services of a customs broker, while not technically required, make the entire process MUCH easier. Here is the procedure that has worked for us.
- We signed up for an account with E-Zone Grenada to act as our broker.
- Packages are delivered to their warehouse in Miami, and held there. Once we supply the invoices listing the value of the items they are released and take the weekly cargo flight to Grenada. At this point, all the paperwork is treated as a normal importation, and full duty is calculated.
- In the meantime, we take the invoices and boat paperwork to the customs office here in the marina. The items are reviewed, and the customs officer issues a “Permit to Ships Stores,” universally known on the island as the C-14. The customs officials here in the marina have been very accommodating, and easy to deal with.
- Once the package arrives at the broker’s warehouse in Grenada, we receive an invoice for the shipping, brokerage charges, and full duty.
- We go to the warehouse with our valuable C-14 form, and present it to have the duty recalculated at the much lower “Ships Stores” rate.
- Pay the brokerage fees, revised duty and shipping and we’re off!
Nothing very difficult, once you know the drill, but as always there are a couple things that can catch you up and greatly increase your bill while adding no value to you.
The shipping and brokerage charges are per box as delivered to the Miami location. Those can add up if you have several boxes coming at once. If you have someone in the USA who can consolidate boxes for you, and then ship them on to the broker in Miami you can save a lot.
Another issue that can bite you is when you pay what is called the “dimensional weight” for the shipping from Miami to the island. We have all had the experience of a box shipped from Amazon or other online supplier with a very small, light object in a greatly oversized box. Amazon doesn’t care and doesn’t charge you extra, but the air freight company carrying your order from Miami down to the island most certainly does. If the weight is low relative to the package size they will charge you by the volume of the package, and that can get expensive in a hurry. This is also best solved by having a friend or family member repack things before shipping them on to Miami.
All these steps and rules are different in each country, but you do gradually learn the common bits.