Customs order restricts import of older vehicles

| 01/05/2023 | 173 Comments
Cayman News Service
Derelict vehicles at the dump

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Government is now restricting the importation of vehicles more than seven years old. About 24,000 vehicles were imported over the last five years, and there are concerns that older vehicles are harder to maintain, cause more pollution and fall short of safety standards. The aim is to curb the number of cars on the road to reduce congestion and derelict vehicles around the islands, as well as cut the number of serious crashes.

Speaking on Radio Cayman’s For the Record on Monday, Premier Wayne Panton explained that the decision was “not made blind” and was based on data. He said that there are exceptions for buses, classic collectors or antique cars, as well as vehicles used in agriculture, engineering and industry.

Cabinet approved the Customs and Border Control (Prohibited Goods) (Amendment) Order, 2023 on 25 April, and it came into effect on 1 May. Vehicles already ordered that are over seven years old will be allowed into the country with the correct paperwork, but those ordered after 30 April that are not exempt and were built before 2016 will be refused.

The new restriction, which is not uncommon around the Caribbean, is expected to have a significant impact, given that 63% of cars imported last year were at last ten years old as the demand for cheaper cars grows.

The restriction is across the board, including commercial dealers, and not limited to work permit holders. Panton said that depending on how things work out and with the development of a more reliable and modern public transport network, further restrictions could be rolled out for work permit holders.

This is the first step of a number of solutions that the CIG is working on to tackle the traffic problem and improve safety while improving public transport, the premier said.

He accepted that building roads would not solve the traffic problem — even after the contentious situation that has developed over the East-West Arterial extension and his surprising decision last week to accept a motion in parliament to build that road without an environmental impact assessment of the stretch between Hirst Road and Lookout Gardens.

Panton said that in the short term, the government would be looking at encouraging, if not mandating, school buses for private schools and rolling out a campaign to promote car pooling and a park-and-ride system from the Eastern Districts.

“The new restriction to limit the age of cars that can be imported will help slow down the number of older cars entering our islands,” Panton said. “These older vehicles are often cheaper to purchase, but they are harder to maintain and will drive higher demand for replacement vehicles. These older vehicles end up abandoned and left for government to dispose of.”

A recent traffic study showed that on weekdays between 6am and 10am, almost 8,000 vehicles pass through the Grand Harbour roundabout, more than 80% of them during the first two hours. But a sample during the Easter school break showed that the number did not fall significantly, as people might assume, given the lighter traffic during school holidays. The premier explained that this was because the vehicles were far more evenly spread, so there was no congestion.

In a release about the new order, Customs and Border Control confirmed that the cut-off year is 2015. CBC Director Charles Clifford said the new order would be rigorously enforced. “A prohibited commodity cannot, under any circumstances, be lawfully imported into the Cayman Islands,” he said. “Importers and their agents must therefore exercise the required due diligence to avoid the consequences of attempting to import a prohibited commodity.”

Dwayne Seymour, who took over the customs portfolio when he was made minister of border control last month, said that restricting vehicle importation was not intended to target residents but to help restore the quality of life. As officials work on finding solutions for the ongoing traffic crisis, he pointed to the recent population rise.

“This significant surge in population further compounds the issue of congestion on the roads and establishes its likelihood to continue to be a growing problem,” he said.

According to the CBC, the total number of cars imported to the Cayman Islands over ten years from 2012-2022 is 39,267, with an annual average of 3,926 cars imported. However, during the last five years from 2018 to 2022, the total number of cars imported is 23,953 with an annual average of 4,790 cars imported.  The average age of vehicles being imported has also increased, as shown in the table below:

 202020212022
Years GroupingTotal% of Total VehiclesTotal% of Total VehiclesTotal% of Total Vehicles
5-10 Years972.043%1,065.038%509.022%
11-20 Years721.032%1,203.042%1,496.063%

See the premier on Radio Cayman below:


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Comments (173)

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  1. Philip says:

    Don’t you think that this blanket ban on cars older than 7 years is absurd and ridiculous.
    We will soon end up like Cuba has done keeping cars running forever regardless of the emissions and consequences of pollution .
    Has anyone in Government thought about the way cars are kept?
    Don’t you think this may have an impact on a cars life here in Grand Cayman?
    Is it kept outside in the sun is it garaged is it serviced correctly all these parameters are of such great importance in the harsh Cayman Islands Climate which will definitely reflect on a cars long levity and its life on the road regardless of age?
    Lets bring in another parameter and that of Left Hand Drive Vehicles that are imported from the USA.
    This is a British Territory with driving that should be primarily for RHD vehicles, that alone would statistically reduce so many accidents and lets face it American cars are far too large to park in Cayman parking spaces.
    Now for the biggest unfair directive I have ever heard off. Has anyone actually defined in Cayman Government as to what a Classic Car is? Apparently, they can still be imported according to the latest directives.
    So the definition of a Classic Car in America and other places is a car that is 40 years or older.
    Well the UK HMRC definition of a Classic car is one that is 15 years old or older and as this island is a British territory then this should be the criteria on which you designate and import your classic car.
    Has the Cayman Islands Government actually given a directive on what is their terminology of a Classic car? When I last spoke to Cayman Customs they had no idea. Their directives also said that if you have already purchased your car before May 1st 2023 and have invoices to prove this, you can still import it even if it has not as yet been shipped.(Read the KY Gov directives on line) I asked customs were they aware of this point and no they had no idea and immediately refuted it.Please Cayman Gov what is your terminology of a classic car and also what is your stance on future classics or rare limited editions that are now out of production?

    Your directives will not allow these cars into the Cayman Islands which is completely unfair and discriminatory.
    Also as in the UK cars should have the ability to be Sorn (Taken off the Road ) in order to reduce congestion for whatever reason that maybe.
    There are much better and fairer ways of reducing congestion without having to discriminate between those people fortunate enough to be able to buy new cars or within the 7 year period and those ; the majority of us who can not.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ok. So done backwards yet again. You don’t fix the infrastructure and you don’t fix the Bus “system” first. You can’t make this stupidity up.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    You want the roads to be like they were back in year 2,000?
    Stop importing people. Cayman is over its sustainable population as it now stands, passed that years ago.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Anybody stop to think that this rule might have been lobbied by the car dealers who want to sell new cars? I think it’s a terrible idea that will create a class divide which is really, really bad and doesn’t fix any of the issues. Let’s fix the issues we can before banning cars and saying that building roads isn’t the solution – I think building smart roads IS a big part of the solution. So Let’s complete some of the numerous half finished roads and make mandatory bussing for the private school students and schedule cruise ship unloading times intelligently so as to avoid work congestion and if none of that works then we can look at banning cars.

    But if we ban cars – let’s think about this – Maybe a cap should be placed on the number of cars imported each year. And we could limit the number of cars/ household. Very democratic but 100% destined to failure. People love their cars and car ownership shouldn’t be limited to only the rich. There is Lots of work to do that can actually improve the traffic situation. Banning cars should be a last resort.

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  5. NoName says:

    Another blanket policy courtesy of CIG that barely makes any form of sense,

    The core issue is that Japanese car manufacturers stop making parts for most of their product range past 5 to 7 years at best making it difficult to service such vehicles , much more to keep them roadworthy . The policy completely ignored the question of electric cars older than 7 years (I personally own two Nissan Leaves and yes a Tesla) all of them older than 7 years and still can find parts for each and every vehicle and can still find upgrades from manufacturer AND aftermarket parts as well.

    How come you would say ? The leaves are manufactured in the US and the parts are available for 20 plus years after the last model has been produced . Every vehicle made and/or sold in the US is under the warranty act of 1975 under the obligation of keeping an inventory of the parts for a number of years .

    Instead of barring by country of manufacture which would have been the sensible thing to do we are doing a blanket ban on imports. This only favours professional car importers that have access to inventories from the US , and greatly disfavours the small Japanese car importers.

    This measure will also heavily impact cost of living on island as there is no Public Tranportation system working reliably , all it will do is mandate people to get more loans sold by banks to finance vehicle purchases, that is IF they have access at all to the local banking system (many just don’t).

    The regulation at this stage just does not make sense and once again CIG is using a sledgehammer where a chisel would have sufficed and brought better results.

    The real issue is that our tiny island does not have the proper road network and faces a huge number of vehicles which IMHO should not be considered road worthy (bad brakes , bad transmissions and NO emissions testing ,which, shall be the hallmark to grand certificates of roadworthiness of ANY car on island).

    But then again as someone mentioned in the comments here , our dear “leaders” are more prone to quote scriptures rather than read thoroughly what they vote and sign into regulation.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry – that is not the reality. After buying a couple of Detroit heaps of Cr@p…I switched to japananse imports. Never looked back. On the very few/couple of occasions I needed parts, shipped them straight in from Japan – no problems and very reasonably priced – landed.

      A lot better that the NorthAm counterparts……

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve got a couple 2014’s I’m looking to replace. Should be able to ask a decent number given the new restrictions. Used cars are going to skyrocket in price.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The people complaining that there’s going to be no cheap cars, please think this through.

    See cars that were new in 2018? they’re still here. See cars bought new today? tomorrow, they’re still a day here but a day older.

    People will import 6 year old cars. These too will age, and be worth less than before.

    There will still be crapheaps to go around, that are 10+ years old!

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    • Anonymous says:

      You obviously haven’t thought this through. Your answer only applies to a fixed population number. The exponential expansion of the population increases demand for vehicles.

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      • Anonymous says:

        It’s increasing, but it really isn’t exponential.

        We have enough vehicles on this island that demand can be sated for the foreseeable future. There are still new cars being bought, there will still be older cars being sold.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    We know there is very little to gain environmentally by these measures, in comparison to Cayman’s overall carbon footprint but it’s good optics and a small win for Premier Panton. We know it’s an assbackwards move, until a proper public transport system exists and will make little difference in the real traffic problems.

    BUT let’s hope this creates new / more opportunities for refurbishing vehicles, in and out, without costing current exorbitant body-shop and mechanic prices. New opportunities = more competition = lower costs?

    Still though, without our school system presenting, fostering and encouraging such opportunities, that will only mean more imported mechanics and paint/body workers, upholsterers, (WP holders), needing more cars because no reliable transport system, etc…….

    ….and the wheels on the bus go round and round! Pun intended!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Terrible idea BUT… on the plus side this will reduce the number of cars scrapped. If the alternative to a $2k fix is no longer a newer 5k import but a 20k car then the older car will be fixed and not scrapped. Secondly the value of your almost worthless but still running old car just doubled.

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  10. Shepherd says:

    This is not the way forward. All this does is further the separation of class.

    There are plenty of aged cars in great condition. How will young people afford a car when leaving school? I remember my first car, it was 10 years old when I got it and served me fine through college.

    Here is the answer: Government IMPOUND LOTS.

    It will pay for itself, staff, tow trucks and make revenue.

    Illegally parked cars, tow them! Uninsured vehicles: Tow them! Not licensed or inspected: Tow them! Not roadworthy: Tow them!

    So much money to be made and one way to ensure folks are law abiding and vehicles are insured and roadworthy.

    It is not that hard…..

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  11. Car guy says:

    This will not reduce the traffic on the roads at all. This will prevent lower income people from owning a car, and the price for all used cars of that age just went up. This is a tax on poor people. I am not clear if this ruling applies to light commercial vehicles like a panel van ? I don’t believe that this will reduce pollution at all. The newer cars aren’t that much “cleaner”. I suppose this applies to electric cars older than 7 years as well ??

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think the (sadly misguided) idea behind this is that foreign labourers in the construction industry, domestic helpers etc will decide to use the (barely existent) public transport system rather than own a car since it’s too expensive and thus reducing the number of drivers on the road.

      The problem, of course, is that firstly there is no reliable bus system and secondly there are a million old cars here already so unless you are going to force those off the road this won’t really make a material difference in the short term.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Whenever a government says the decision wasn’t taken ‘blindly’ it usually means it was.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Yes let’s restrict the average Joe from buying an affordable vehicle before fixing the public transportation issue because how else we going sell this inventory of cars our pals have.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    One criticism of our young people over the years is they can’t wait to get out of high school and buy some expensive automobile instead of investing in land and focusing on career and education.

    This decision has left them with no choice! With no reliable public transport available and no plans in place to create one, our young people will be forced to buy an expensive automobile. The option to get a cheap one was just removed by the PACT!

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    • Anonymous says:

      When I was a yut, I had a mortgage, went to buy a car. The car sales man wanted to sell me a new car, told him I couldn’t make the motgage payment and a new car payment so I needed a used car. He told me I could live in my car, but couldn’t drive my house, problem solved.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Are you the lady parked in the public park on South Church Street every morning bathing her two kids with the hose pipe every morning while MASH turns a blind eye by chance?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    So Wayne Panton what you are telling us poor people that we will have to catch the minibus to get to the pooling station on election day.. to vote for you…I dont think so

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to bring in my collectors edition 2001 Honda Fit. #vintage

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  17. Anonymous says:

    price of used cars will now skyrocket

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Can I import an 8 year old donkey to ride only when the moon is full?

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  19. Anonymous says:

    This initiative and the others suggested might look good in theory, but they are so short sighted. Can there possibly still be anyone in Cayman who doesn’t see that a robust public transport system has to the first step and is way overdue? Until that exists, limiting importation of older cars only hits the lower income groups who can least afford it. I’m all for getting crappy cars off the road, but that can be done by other means noted in these comments already.

    Private school buses have been tried by some schools and largely failed – unlike the public schools, private schools draw students from all over the island which makes this difficult to implement at best, and besides many students are dropped off by parents on their way to work. Staggering the school start times would have far more impact. I recently read (and regrettably can’t find now) the rather startlingly low figure for public school bus ridership – as I recall it was less than half. Private school bus usage will be lower, not higher, and you won’t be able to mandate it – that just opens up the system to creative workarounds.

    Suggesting different rules for expats really shows desperation and a complete lack of creativity – this sort of divisive thinking benefits no one. Find solutions that everyone can get on board with.

    PACT needs to stop looking for “easy” fixes (hint: there aren’t any) and just get on with implementing a proper public transport system. Will it be easy? No. Will you anger a few voting minibus drivers? Probably. But with political will and sense, it can be done and must be done. If it’s a proper system with logical routes then tourists, school students, lower income workers and plenty of others will use it. Pay for it by taxing higher end vehicles, multiple vehicles licensed to the same owner, whatever…but get on with it, this is becoming ridiculous.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Wayne is just trying to regain credibility as an environmentalist. There was no mention of this in Parliament. It was hatched over the weekend after the disaster that the EWA debate was for Wayne and PACT. A Last minute attempt at pretending to do something.

      Waffling Wayne is a disaster. As is his Promise to ACT PACT.

      Poor Cayman.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A proper bus service IS the easy fix!

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Only millionaires or their paid chauffeurs should be allowed on the road in their own vehicles with the exception of dump trucks and ambulances. Everyone else can walk or bike to work. Tandem bikes are fastest and are a form of carpooling that we can all embrace.

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