Capt. Deha Aydin, Marine Claims Executive at Turkish law firm Esenyel Partners, Lawyers & Consultants on 15 October published an article highlighting the importance of accurate bunker declarations at Turkish ports by detailing legal actions taken by the Customs Directorate if any vessels are found to have misdeclared its bunker quantity:
Ships calling at Turkish Ports are sent to the Customs Directorate in accordance with the customs regulations where they must declare items such as existing fuel (fuel-oil and diesel-oil), oils, cigarettes, and drinks.
Based on our recent experience, where the above items are missing and / or overrepresented, the Customs Directorate will initiate a judicial investigation in accordance with the relevant regulations, and implement criminal sanctions.
The amount of bunker fuel is determined according to Customs regulation ARTICLE 481 – (1) when ships enter the cabotage. As the amount of fuel they receive from other ports is shown in the ships’ logbooks and the fuel logbook, the difference between the amount bunkered according to the logbook and the amount consumed according to the logbook and fuel logbook will be noted. The difference in bunker fuel is thus determined, and the amount to be subject to tax is calculated. According to paragraph 2 of Article 9 in the customs regulation regarding smuggled goods at customs halls and customs gates, customs clearance of persons suspected of hiding their belongings, cargo and vehicles can be searched by officials.
Smuggled goods detected as a result of the search will be seized immediately. Notably if the under-declaration of bunker fuel is detected as a result of the search, the excess fuel calculated will be debunkered and destroyed by authorities. In addition, a judicial investigation will be initiated against the Ship Captain and Chief Engineer for fuel smuggling. According to the Anti-Smuggling Code, numbered 5607, Article 3, Sub-article 1: The person who smuggles goods into the country without customs clearance will be faced with imprisonment from one to five years and a judicial fine of up to ten thousand days. In the case where goods are smuggled into the country somewhere rather than Customs Gate, the penalty is increased by one third to half.
The vessel will not be allowed to take off during the debunkering process of unreported fuel even though the process will delay the schedule of the ship. The process may take up to three days to complete. In practice, it is known that a delay will be incurred due to the arrangement for shore tanks and barges to be available. In addition, it is better to remind that undeclared bunker cannot be left in the vessel as security. The Correct measurement of the bunker and the correct declaration of bunker to Customs Directorate will prevent ship-owners, ship managers from experiencing any commercial losses due to delay.
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