Thursday, November 19, 2009

Navy Wants To Bar Guam Customs From Inspecting Military Ships and Aircraft

Navy Wants To Bar Guam Customs From Inspecting Military Ships and Aircraft

Guam - Should military ships and aircraft be exempt from Guam Customs and Quarantine inspections?

That has become the big question of the day, following statements from the Joint Region Marianas that they are exempt. Now local officials are up at arms, trying to ensure that Guam officials maintain their jurisdiction over all arriving vessels at the port, and on the us military bases.

The Department of the Navy has issued a point paper informing GovGuam that U.S. "military ships and aircraft are exempt from inspections by the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency."

But Guam Customs has had jurisdiction over military ships and aircraft for decades, and the matter has raised red flags as it indicates an effort to change the policy.

The point paper cites the supremacy clause as it's justification, stating vessels of ware are not required to be inspected. It also states "under no circumstances may Guam authorities be permitted to exercise governmental authority, nor may they inspect the ship/aircraft."

But Senator Frank Blas counters that citing the Defense Transportation regulation which clearly gives customs authority to inspect arriving vessels.

Blas says there are serious concerns with regard to the proposed restrictions, especially in light of the impending military build up.

Blas adds it is suspect, especially in light of the recent controversy over a military shipment allowed to be sent from the Guam Shipyard, circumventing port policies and procedures. Blas suggesting the policy change would be to allow future shipments to be sent in such a manner.

The governors office is part of a working group, which includes representatives of the US military, Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo and senators. Governors legal council Ray Haddock says the issue came up during talks surrounding the military buildup, and the us military is only referring to warship, which they say should be exempt from customs inspections.

No decisions have been made and the matter was a suggestion as the group works to establish guidelines and fees for ships which will be arriving.

Meanwhile, Guam Customs and Quarantine officials says all ships are subject to inspections as they serve as agent for the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture.

According to officials all ships and aircraft are subject to inspection for agricultural and public health purposes. The only exemption would be foreign vessels of war, although anything that comes off of those ships would be searchable by GCQA. Customs officials say however that out of courtesy, foreign vessels have allowed customs agents to conduct searches.

Written by :
Mana Silva Taijeron

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