Customs and the Montreal Protocol: a successful partnership with impressive results

18 September 2009

Brussels, 17 September 2009

Customs and the Montreal Protocol: a successful partnership with impressive results

In celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the World Customs Organization (WCO) takes this opportunity to re-affirm its commitment to ensuring the successful implementation of this international instrument by Customs administrations around the world.

The Protocol has established a comprehensive mechanism to ensure global compliance by effectively controlling the trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS). Successful implementation of the Protocol since its adoption in 1987 is to a large degree due to the substantial efforts by Customs administrations worldwide but in the lead-up to 2010 and beyond, the phase-out of CFCs in developing countries will not mean the end of Customs’ work! Criminal syndicates will still attempt to trade, but Customs and its partners will be ready to deal an effective blow to their activities through increased mutual cooperation and coordinated action.

WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, said, “ Protecting the environment is a priority for the WCO. All Customs authorities have a very important role to play in ensuring a greener and safer world as they are on the frontline and primarily responsible for dealing with goods at borders”. He added, “ While Customs is fully aware of the challenges it faces in combating the illegal trade in ODS and other environment-fragile goods, fauna and flora, the WCO in partnership with its Member Customs administrations and other interested parties will not flinch in its efforts to protect the environment through effective border enforcement”.

With respect to ODS in particular, the international community is aware that very often non-producer countries and free-trade zones are abused as transit points for further distribution of these substances thereby bypassing the Montreal Protocol Licensing System. False declarations and mislabelling make it even more difficult for Customs to detect these goods. The task of curbing smuggling in developing countries, particularly those falling within Article 5 of the Protocol, is considerable because the bulk of production and consumption now occurs in these countries due to the fact that their scheduled phase out of ODS is still to be completed.

2009 has thus far witnessed a number of significant interceptions of ODS by Customs, including more than 85 used refrigerators and almost 19,000 kg of refrigerator compressors containing CFCs. While these seizures are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, they nevertheless reveal the extent of this illegal activity. Further illustration of Customs successes include the seizure of 1,140 cylinders of R-12 (gas used as a refrigerant or aerosol spray propellant) in May 2009 by Royal Thai Customs as well as their foiling of an attempt to smuggle 1,115 cylinders (15 metric tonnes) of R-12, the May 2009 interception of 565 cartons of 99.9% pure R-12 by Indonesian Customs, and the first seizure at China’s western border by Customs officers of more then 100 kg of HCFC-22 (gas used in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment) heading for Central Asia.

The WCO will continue to invest heavily in building the capacity of Customs administrations to stop all forms of environment crime. In addition the Organization will step up its efforts to enhance cooperation with other international organizations such as UNEP which together with the WCO form part of the Green Customs Initiative, as these efforts are an investment in the future; an investment for the benefit of future generations.

WCO Members join the WCO Secretariat in expressing best wishes to the Ozone Secretariat on this special occasion.


WCO Environment Protection Programme

Ozone Secretariat

UN Environment Programme

Green Customs Initiative