21 Aug 2019 Editorial

Six Latin American Government officials receive Customs and Enforcement Officers Global Awards

Asuncion, 20 August 2019 — International illegal trade in environmentally sensitive commodities such as ozone depleting substances, toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, endangered species and living modified organisms, is an international problem with serious consequences. It directly threatens human health and the environment; contributes to the loss of species; results in revenue loss for governments; and undermines the success of international environmental agreements by circumventing agreed rules and procedures.

Aiming to address these challenges, National Ozone Officers and Customs Officers from 16 Latin American countries have today commenced in Asuncion, Paraguay a three-day training workshop (20-22 August 2019) on illegal trade of environmentally regulated goods.

The first two days of the workshop, which will focus on practical cooperation to support compliance with national obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, are organized by United Nations Environment Programme’s OzonAction Branch and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Paraguay, with support from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

Since the same Customs Officers responsible for surveillance of international trade of Montreal Protocol controlled substances are also often in charge of other Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ trade controls, the final day of the training workshop will be organized and supported by the Green Customs Initiative, a unique partnership of international organizations and Secretariats of trade-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements aiming at enhancing the capacities of Customs authorities.

One of the highlights of the workshop is that government officers and organizations of six Latin American countries received the Global Montreal Protocol Award for Customs and Enforcement Officers as part of a recognition programme that was launched in January 2018 jointly by OzonAction, the Ozone Secretariat and the World Customs Organization.

Government officers and organizations of Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Paraguay received an award for preventing illegal trade of substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol. Colombia also received an award for promoting effective information exchange between importing and exporting countries. The following are recipients of the awards (in alphabetical order):

The Ozone Programme Office of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Customs Service of the Ministry of Finance of Argentina due to the seizure in 2009 of 1,150 cylinders of HCFC-22 mis-labeled as HFC-134a. The case was prosecuted and heavily fined, and the next step is the final disposal of the seized refrigerants.

Ms. Cindy Sofia Sterling Howard from Limon Customs Office and Mr. Luis Gerardo Barrantes Suarez from Fiscal Control Police of Costa Rica, who together seized 412 cylinders of HCFC-22 in 2014. Due to effective post-control measures, the Costa Rica National Customs Service managed to identify past illegal traffic and confiscate the remaining goods.

The Ozone National Programme of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the General Directorate of Customs of the Dominican Republic for the seizure of 6,700 cylinders of CFC-12 mislabeled as HFC-134a in 2017. The company was subjected to a fine and the cylinders are to be re-exported to the country of origin.

The Ozone Technical Unit, Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment of Honduras and the Executive Directorate of Revenue Customs Office of Puerto Cortes for nine different seizures of illegal traffic between 2015-2018 of used milk tanks and air-conditioners containing HCFC-22, which is prohibited by national law. The confiscated equipment was retrofitted to alternative refrigerants before it was donated to public institutions.

Mr. Juan Carlos Amarilla Rojas, the Green Customs Focal Point and the General Directorate of Customs of Paraguay for three seizures that included 1,150 cylinders of mainly HCFC-22 in 2010, and 27,000 split air conditioning units that use HCFC-22 gas, in 2015.

The Ozone Technical Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia also received an award in the effective use of OzonAction's informal Prior Informed Consent (iPIC) mechanism for the import and export of ozone depleting substances. In this case, China's Import/Export Licensing Office contacted Colombia and appropriately identified that the export permit request made in China did not match with the import license issued by the Colombian authorities. As a result, the export of 4,704 kg of HCFC-22 was rejected.

The Global Montreal Protocol Awards are an example of the crucial role that Customs play in fighting illegal trade in ozone depleting substances and the importance of ensuring effective customs training on environmentally sensitive commodities as well as of sharing information between importing and exporting countries. A total of 9,412 cylinders and 27,024 items of equipment were seized in Latin America by these countries. In some cases, the issue of disposal of the seized goods (re-export, destruction, auctioning and tracking of operations) is still being decided.

Award to Paraguay

In the presentation of the medals and certificates to the 11 Latin American awardees, the Regional Director and Regional Representative, Mr. Leo Heileman said, “The United Nations Environment congratulates the award winners for their excellent work to protect the environment and respect the national obligations under the Montreal Protocol, but also encourages all Latin American countries to establish strong and enforceable laws against environmental crime. Our presence here in Paraguay shows this country gives high importance for reinforcing Customs capabilities to control the illegal trade of ozone depleting substances.”

For more information contact:

Anne-Maria Fenner
Information Manager
UN Environment, OzonAction
Email: [email protected]