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961 - 04/14 - Custom Fines for Shortages - Ivory Coast
The club has recently faced multiple cases of Customs fines in Ivory Coast for short discharge of cargo. The recent cases were associated with short discharges of rice cargo in the port of Abidjan.
Any imported goods from abroad are subject to customs duty payable in favor of the Treasury of the State of Ivory Coast. Hence, customs authorities construe any short landing of cargo as loss on profit & impose a fine as a means of compensation for the loss of profit. In a similar manner, it is likely that any cargo discharge more than the manifest quantity may again be fined on the basis of the cargo as being smuggled, as asserted by the Customs authority.
There does not seem to be any recourse to the fine being reduced once declared by the customs authority, or any allowance for cargo outturn discrepancy as considered by the customs. The fine is to be paid by the vessels agents and Members may often be faced with a situation when the agents may create issues with obtaining port clearance unless funds are transferred to their account or an appropriate Club LOU given to them for the amount.
In case of rice cargoes shipped in bags, the customs authorities base the figure of the fine on the tally report of the stevedores. Since these surveyors are appointed by cargo receivers, it may be the case that unless checked carefully, an excess of shortage may be reported, leading to greater fines.
An important point to consider in this respect is that the customs only consider missing bags as cargo shortage. Hence all torn half empty bags or empty bags must still be carefully accounted for to ensure that the fines are kept to a minimum.
The appointment of a competent surveyor at the discharge port to compare the tally of the stevedores surveyor can substantially assist the members in keeping track of the possible customs fine and negotiating with the subsequent cargo claim.
Since the customs fine is invariably announced at the end of the discharge, it is best that Members be aware that such a situation may develop and arrangements established directly with the charterers, agents or Club assistance requested in good time to avoid any delays.
Source of information
UK P&I Club Loss Prevention Dept