Senegal steps up immigration and customs controls

Marine insurer Gard has noted that vessels calling at Senegalese ports, particularly Dakar, were continuing to face customs fines, but noted that the amounts of such fines had recently increased substantially.

Gard noted that it had highlighted in the past the importance of accurate customs declarations when trading to Senegal. In January 2017 it found that even lube oil that was “in use”, e.g. in the engine sump tank, the hydraulic system pressure tank for windlass and winches, stern tube, and so on, had to be declared in the stores list. In December 2017 Gard was further advised that failure to declare a vessel’s quantity of fire extinguishing agents, such as CO2 and foam, could be considered an infringement of the Senegalese Customs Code and incur fines.

Gard’s local correspondent BUDD warned on January 11th that the situation in the port of Dakar was becoming progressively more difficult, with the grounds on which fines were being levied becoming “increasingly diverse”, while the amounts of the fines themselves had increased substantially. In one case, said BUDD, the initial fine demanded was for $1m. Demands for hundreds of thousands of dollars were becoming commonplace, said BUDD.

Gard said that it was therefore important “now more than ever” that Masters of ships calling at the port of Dakar were well informed about the situation. Masters had to ensure that seafarers’ immigration documents were accurate and up-to-date and also should be vigilant and pay close attention when completing the formal customs documents.

“Any errors, omissions and/or discrepancies in documents related to ship’s stores, personal effects, goods in transit or for transshipment, including excess in cargo discharged, seafarers’ books, etc. are likely to result in substantial fines”, said Gard..

In summary, BUDD advises Masters of ships destined for Senegalese ports, and the port of Dakar in particular, to:

  • Contact the ship’s local agent well in advance of arrival to ascertain the customs and immigration regulations in force in Senegal at that given time and the documentation required.
  • Prepare all required documents in advance, before arriving in port, and ensure that all is in order.
  • Check that all consumables on board, including food, paint, chemicals, crew personal effects, bunkers and lube oil, fire extinguishing medium, etc have been accurately listed in the proper declaration form. The accuracy of all numbers remained crucial.
  • Keep all the required documents and declarations in one single file and ask the agent to verify the documents before remittance to the authorities. Budd said that it might be necessary to delay the lowering of the gangway to prevent authority representatives from coming onboard until all documents have been thoroughly filled out and carefully checked.
  • Meet with the authority representatives in person and ensure that the agent was present onboard at the time when the representatives board the ship.
  • In case of any doubt, e.g. if asked to sign an unfamiliar document, ask for the agent’s and/or the P&I correspondent’s assistance.