Monday, 24 February 2020

Skuld warns members to get customs right in African bulk discharges
By Jon Guy, IHS Maritime

P&I Club Skuld has raised the issue for shipowners and charterers of the rise in customs fines in certain African states.

Skuld has distributed new guidance to its members that addresses its concerns around custom fines for discrepancy between quantities manifested and the final stevedores’ figure.

The club has taken a stand on the issue with other clubs and the international group has yet to follow its lead in highlighting the problems.

Skuld said it remains a potential issue for bulk vessels trading in West African nations, especially in countries such as Benin, Togo, and the Ivory Coast, which have a high demand for imported bagged commodities such as sugar and rice.

The fines can be hefty and the obligation to pay them is laid at the feet of the ship’s agents who in turn will demand a letter of understanding from owners and clubs to pay any fines should they be imposed.

In its advice to members, Skuld said, “Bulk vessels discharging bagged cargo in Lomé, Cotonou, and Abidjan will often receive a message from their agent on arrival stating that when a vessel is calling at one of these ports, the agent needs to provide a copy of the cargo manifest within 24 hours of the vessel’s arrival and that, in the case of a discrepancy between the quantity manifested and the final stevedore tally’s figure, a custom fine will be imposed.

“As the vessel’s agent is responsible for the payment of the fine on behalf of the vessel, it is common, before completion of discharge, to receive a request for the issuance of a letter of undertaking (LoU) to cover the amount of the potential fine. The LoU request will be based on the estimation of the potential fine, plus a usual uplift.”

The club added that, while the situation has improved in Togo and Benin since 2014, owners and operators need to take certain steps to ensure they are prepared for every eventuality.

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