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Cape Verde Customs Procedures

Customs clearance is slow and tiresome

As of 2013 bringing containers into the harbours in Cape Verde has become significantly more risky and time-consuming. Customs no longer allows full containers to leave the port for inspection , whilst being unloaded at the customer premises. All inspection must be done at the port of entry into Cape Verde. This means that a container has to be emptied completely in the port area. The opportunity for theft is great since all passengers to the ferry pass the unguarded merchandise on the quayside. Imported goods, once cleared, must be laboriously loaded into pick-up trucks to continue to the destination.

The concession, for the first container to furnish a house or flat seems is much more difficult to obtain. In theoiry,if the furniture and appliances appear to be pre-owned, anyone with a house or flat could import a 20ft or 4 ft container with a small charge. It was also permitted to bring in a single vehicle, which could be new and would be registered with local green plates.

It is unclear whether either of these concessions still exist. If they do, the bureaucracy involved in obtaining them has got far worse. It was an unforgetable sight to see the list of over 200 items being stared at in horror by the chief customs clerk, and passed as if it were red hot to her deputy, and on again just as swiftly to the most junior.

Any goods imported into Cape Verde must be accompanied by a full typed description of every single item in Portuguese. If new, it must be accompanied by a receipt . If old, iot must be given an acceptable valuation in euros.

In order to have any hope of obtaining a personal possessions concession, the shipment must be covered with a letter that can be in English but it must be accompanied by a notarised translation into Portuguese. The original letter must carry the address and a prubber stamp from a local government organisation. In practice local Councils in Britain and still less the Foreign Office see absolutely no need to be helpful in such matters. So unless you happen to have a friend who is a local Councillor or who works for a Council, it could be very difficult to obtain this dispensation.

You should allow for at least a month and a minimum of five visits to the port to clear a container, unless you have a contact who is on very friendly tems with the head of customs. You will need to be accompanied by a Despachante.-Ttere are several in Espargos and in Praia, and Mindelo some of whom speak limited English. The Despachante will charge for his services and the port authority will charge for the time that the goods remain in port. There may be ways to expedite matters but this is not an appropriate place to consider them.

Customs duties seem to vary on almost ever single item - for instance a boat carries different import duties depending on whether it is made from wood, plastic or rubber. Cars collect higher and higher duties as the age increases. So it is not worth importing a car at all if it is more than about three years old - as the duties become savage. Many owners have abandoned their prized Land Rover or sports car at the customs, rather than pay an exorbitant duty.

It used to be simpler if costly to bring household items in through the airport as air cargo. But changes in personnel have also made this more time-consuming and expensive. Once again a Despachante always now seems to be required even where items are old and for personal use. Any new item, especially electrical goods must be accompanied by a retail receipt. Otherwise it may be assessed at up to four or five times its true cost price as the cusoms seem to have little idea of values.

Once again, evry single item has to be listed in Portuguese, with an assessed value. And every single item has to be removed from its box and packaging and checked by at least five people. This can take several hours. But the procedure for getting the Depachante, who seems to play little part in the proceedings, will easil;y stretch customs clearance out to a few days or if a weekend intervenes perhaps as much as a week. Nothjijng at all can be done before Christmas or public holidays.

Duties on household goods and personal items are very complicated but a rough average would be 30% of the purchase price as recorded on a valid receipt. Without a receipt it could be much higher.