Turkish customs demanding debunkering of misdeclared fuel

An increasing trend of bunker quantity checks by Turkish Customs officials has been reported by Kalimbassieris Maritime, which has issued an alert, warning of an increase in unannounced customs inspections at Turkish ports, which include scrutiny of bunker remains on board.

As part of the inspection the quantity of fuel on board is compared with that declared by the vessel on arrival. If the declared amount is less than the actual amount on board, the customs authorities might consider this to be an act of smuggling of a petroleum product and demand the discharge of the excess. The vessel’s master and chief engineer might also be required to provide statements.

Kalimbassieris Maritime understood that there was no formal allowance for the discrepancy between the declared bunkers and the actual bunkers – this remained at the discretion of the Customs officials.

Kalimbassieris has advised that the above should not lead to any enforcement against the shipowner and it should not result in the detention of the vessel. However, it might result in the arrest of the vessel’s master for violations of Anti-Smuggling Law Nr. 5607.

Although in theory such offences can be punished with up to five years imprisonment, Kalimbassieris’s understanding was that to date enforcement action had been limited to ordering the debunkering of the excess fuel on board.

North of England said that accurate customs declarations were very important. “Crew should ensure that they correctly measure and record the quantities of bunkers on board just before the arrival to the port.”