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Customs & Excise

Monarchs and governments have long raised money by putting a duty on luxury goods brought into a country. Wines and spirits are a favourite source of this revenue, but tobacco, perfume and many other goods have also been charged. The customs and excise service people collect this money, and try to prevent smuggling. 

Staff at Southampton Customs Office

Magnifying glassStaff at Southampton Customs Office

Important ports will have customs officers who check passengers arriving. They may also arrive unannounced on a ship to search it from bow to stern for smuggled goods, an operation known as `rummaging`.

Accounts of battles with armed bands of smugglers have given the customs service something of a romantic image. They do enjoy powers greater than those of the police. For instance, they can confiscate a ship or vehicle carrying contraband goods. 

Over the years, customs officers` jobs have changed. For instance, they now have the much less romantic task of collecting Value Added Tax (VAT). But their work still can involve excitement and danger. For instance, they are in the forefront of attempts to prevent drug trafficking.

People in port 

Many different people are needed to make sure that a port operates smoothly. Some of them, like police and tug operators, work in the public eye. Others, like the harbourmaster, work behind the scenes. But all are needed to make sure that ports operate effectively, twenty-four hours a day.


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