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Increased risk of significant customs fines in Senegal

Customs fines over EUR 1 million are being reported in situations regarding allegedly incorrect declarations of any property on the ship (including any apparent bunker shortages), crew and cargo. The situation has become more challenging as the grounds on which fines are levied have become increasingly diverse and the amount of the fines imposed are reaching high levels…

Ships calling at Dakar may be subjected to customs fines and/or detention for any alleged inaccuracies in documents and declarations. Examples include the following:

  • Deficits in the cargo manifest (including goods to be discharged in Dakar, as well as any cargo in transit);
  • Errors in the bills of lading;
  • Incorrect list of ports of call;
  • Errors in the crew list;
  • Errors in the list of crew personal effects;
  • Incorrect inventory of the bonded store;
  • Failure to declare the correct amount of food supplies, paint, or chemicals on board;
  • Failure to have the required number of fire extinguishers on board;
  • Failure to declare the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and foam concentrate contained within the vessel’s fixed fire extinguishing systems;
  • Failure to declare the quantity of “used oil”, including fuel oil contained within piping, lube oil contained in the engine sump tank and pumps, hydraulic oil in pressure tanks for windlass and winches, etc.; and,
  • Failures in the bunker declaration form, such as incorrectly detailing quantities of lube oil, diesel oil and fuel oil or quantities contained in tanks (including sump tanks), drums, cans and sludge.

The customs authorities closely examine the ship’s documents and declarations and check these against the actual cargo and/or property on board the ship by taking their own soundings and carrying out their own inspections. Strict penalties are imposed in accordance with the local Customs Code if any discrepancies are found. Even minor errors such as typos, incorrect use of capital letters and misplaced commas are attracting substantial fines. Acting in good faith is not accepted as an excuse.

It is also common for the customs authorities to impose customs fines where there is any shortage or excess of bagged, liquid or bulk cargo discharged from the ship. These fines are calculated based on the quantity and/or number of bags or weight recorded by a surveyor appointed by the customs authorities. However, the tallies of bagged cargoes are usually made ashore alongside the ship before the cargo is loaded onto trucks rather than in the cargo holds.

Fines can also be imposed by the immigration authorities for errors in the crew list, passenger list, ports of call list (previous and next ports), and stowaways list (if any). Even spelling errors have led to penalties being imposed in the past. However, these fines are less common and are usually not substantial.

In the light of this increase in fines, the club’s local correspondents recommend that members and masters take the following precautions:

  • Before arriving in the port, members should consult local agents for the latest requirements;
  • Complete the customs declaration before arriving in the port;
  • Ensure that all the items listed above including personal belongings of crew, food, ship’s stores, fire extinguishers, CO2, bunkers, and paint are accurately described in the declaration;
  • Ensure that all crewmembers’ passports are valid, and the seamen’s books are correctly filled and updated;
  • Prepare a file containing all the relevant documents and ask the vessel’s agent to come on board to check same before the customs officers arrive;
  • The master and the ship’s agent should personally receive customs officers and should carry out the formalities on board in their presence;
  • Ensure that any modification to the manifest has been made correctly;
  • Do not sign any document from the customs authorities which you do not fully understand;
  • Avoid attempting to argue or negotiate with the customs officers as they may well interpret any such efforts as an attempt to corrupt state officials, which is a punishable offence;
  • In order to minimise any exposure to fines for cargo shortages, a draft survey or tally of bagged cargoes should be carried out with all parties invited to attend; and,
  • Contact the club and a P&I correspondent for assistance in case of need; this can aid in possibly having the fine reduced and provide notice to the club in the event security needs to be supplied to release the ship.

In the event that a fine is or is likely to be imposed, the member should contact the club and the local correspondent immediately. The local correspondent can review the fine and attempt to negotiate a reduction. If the fine is not agreed prior to the ship departing, a bank guarantee or ‘promissory letter’ from the local correspondents is usually required. It is therefore important to engage the club and local correspondent as soon as possible following any incident.

The International Group is currently working with the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) on a resolution.

We attach the circular prepared by our local correspondent, TCI Africa, who advise that the contents remain relevant and thank them for their assistance with this alert and these matters generally.
Source: North Standard

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