Customs Reform and Modernization in Vanuatu

 Customs Reform and Modernization in Vanuatu


Special Contribution by Mr. Benjamin Malas

Director, Department of Customs & Inland Revenue of Vanuatu


 The Vanuatu Customs division within the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue wishes to share some important insights of the success story it achieved through the reform and modernisation in its administration for the last 5 years to date.




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A project commenced in 2012 to re-write the existing Customs Act based on a model accepted by the Forum Island Ministers. The re-written Act became law in December 2013 and brought with it a number of features consistent with global best practice for customs legislation. Customs now provided legally binding Advanced Rulings on matters pertaining to tariff classification, valuation and origin. The role of customs brokers was also more defined and a licensing process, including qualifying exams properly identified.  Cargo facilitation was also improved by the ability for customs to take securities for cargo consignments which were subject to dispute. This allows importers to take delivery of their cargo and the matter under dispute resolved later, rather than delaying the delivery while the matter continues to be contested.

Since July 2014, the upgraded, a web based system ASYCUDA World provides live data, enabling Vanuatu Customs for performance measurement in real time, thus improving risk assessment.  The system has increased capabilities for accounting, post-clearance audit, statistics and information management. Easier aggregation of data at regional and international levels contributes to better and faster economic decision-making. The system insures the complete coverage of the clearance process and includes the built-in capability to support national specific requirements and/or frequent regulation changes

In May 2017, Vanuatu Customs commissioned the Asian Development Bank to conduct a Time Release Survey, which identifies and measures the time taken for every transaction from the arrival of ship or aircraft to the delivery of cargo at the importers premises. This process is used to identify impediments to cargo delivery so that improvements can be made to facilitation rates. The data from this survey will be used as base line data for future surveys which will be conducted annually.


On the 1st of December 2017, Customs assumed responsibility of the Immigration passenger processing function at air and sea ports. This was a major addition to Custom’s responsibilities, and was the catalyst for our front line officers now being titled Border Security Officers as they control the flow of goods and people across our borders. There was substantial training undertaken, provided by the Vanuatu Immigrations Service, New Zealand Customs, and Australian Border Force.




In 2018, Vanuatu will become a contracting party to the HS, the only Forum Island country besides Fiji and PNG to do so.  In 2018, Vanuatu will also become a contracting party to the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonisation of Customs Procedures (a.k.a. Revised Kyoto Convention). Being an RKC Contracting Party gives traders and other stakeholders inside and outside the country’s economy a firm message that the Vanuatu government promotes and maintains efficient and modern Customs procedures consistent with international standards, and ensures that legitimate trade is facilitated without compromising the Customs controls function.  2018 will also see the delivery of whole container x-ray technology, donated by the Chinese Government, providing Customs with the capability of conducting non-intrusive inspections of containers for prohibited and restricted goods.

In just a few years, Vanuatu Customs have achieved a number of ground breaking reforms, and assumed new responsibilities, while continuing to be in the vanguard of modernization. The momentum created by the Customs Reform and Modernization Committee, chaired by the Director DCIR and attended by The Deputy Director Customs, Managers and the Technical Adviser, has filtered down to all levels of the organisation and our stakeholders have been the beneficial recipients of these initiatives.

More detailed information about the reform and modernization that Vanuatu Customs has been going through is now available in their official website or contact Mr. George R. Pakoa, Acting Deputy Director Customs at

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