VANUATU: It appears nowhere is free from illegal imports of refrigerant, following a seizure of R22 on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

At the beginning of this month, customs officers at Port Vila, on the island of Efate, the capital and largest city of Vanuatu, intercepted a personal import from China of two cylinders containing 22kg of R22.

Although the consignment was small the importer could face a fine equivalent to around €4,000 – twice the estimated average annual wage on the islands. 

The seized cylinders were packaged and marked as R404A but customs officers’ suspicions were raised by the consignment being inexplicably declared on documentation as ammonia. Subsequent checks by customs’ own electronic refrigerant identifier showed that the cylinders actually contained R22 – a gas which is now subject to import restrictions and requires an import permit under Vanuatu’s Montreal Protocol agreements.

The Importer was penalised by customs for misclassification and for incorrect labelling of the controlled substance. The gas cylinders were further seized and handed over to the Vanuatu’s National Ozone Unit (NOU) at the Department of Environment for safe disposal.