What’s it like working as a Customs Officer?
Customs Officers the world over protect the shipping industry from abuse by preventing smuggling and illegal trade. In what can be a demanding role, Customs Officers will board and search suspicious ships, and undertake inspections and searches of cargoes and personnel. As such, people skills are essential for this advisory and regulatory role, and experience of working with the public, particularly in confrontational situations, is also useful.
The other side of a Customs Officers’ role sees them advise on and collect taxes and duties from the legitimate movement of manufactured and imported goods.
What kind of work can I do?
Customs Officers can be called on to perform a number of jobs, such as collecting and protecting revenue, providing criteria for selection of non-compliant businesses, preparing reports, assessing business credibility, identifying irregularities and then taking appropriate action, and producing audit reports. Customs Officers may also be expected to search cargo, ships and crew, check customs documents, question people who have been found with illegal items, arrest and charge people, and prepare witness statements. To ensure fair treatment of all ships, cargoes and crews, Customs Officers must have a good understanding of local, national and international legislation and regulation.
Where can I work?
As a government role, each country will have its own national Customs agency. For example, in the UK that agency is the HM Revenue and Customs, which is the sole employer of Customs Officers in the UK. Within the national Customs agency, there will be a number of distinct business streams, such as law enforcement, business services and taxes, and logistics. Application is generally directly made through the national Customs Agency. Customs Officers play a vital enforcement role in the maritime industry.
How big is this sector?
While every country will have a Customs Agency, vacancies are often small in number and as a result external recruitment is very competitive. Self-employment or freelance work is not commonplace.
In terms of travel, Customs Officers will generally spend much time out of the office visiting traders, but as this is primarily a role serving national interests, there is very little scope for overseas travel.