The CCLEC was established in the early 1970s as an informal association of Customs administrations within the Caribbean region. The principal objectives of the Council in these early years were the exchange of information on smuggling and helping the smaller regional administrations adjust to the new threat of organized drug trafficking through the region.
From these early beginnings the Council slowly established itself through a growing membership base and an increasing diversification into other areas of Customs business.
In 1989, the members of the Council agreed to formalize their exchange of information through the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding mutual assistance and cooperation for the prevention and repression of customs offenses in the Caribbean zone. At that time 21 countries signed the MOU but this number has grown to 36 signatories.