Turkish Customs have recently increased the sudden inspections onboard vessels calling the Turkish ports for checking the quantities of bunkers onboard in comparison with the declared ones by the ships’ command at the arrival at the port.
Vessels’ command should make sure that they will avoid misdeclarations to the Customs and pay utmost attention to properly and correctly measure the quantities of bunkers present in the stores just before the arrival to the port. Should an over quantity be determined, same is considered as smuggling of petroleum product thus the quantity of bunker exceeding the declared is confiscated by the Customs and discharged ashore by means tank trucks for liquidation.
The difference on bunkers is treated as a criminal act and same is considered as “bring in goods (bunker in this case) without customs formalities” for this reason vessel’s command can be accused for smuggling.
In case that vessel is found with quantities more than the declared ones, except the confiscation of the bunkers, Master and Chief Engineer are taken for testimonies in the presence of a sworn translator.
The crew should clearly state in their verbal and written statements that the excess quantity is not a result of a deliberate act. Testimonies along with survey report, Minutes for Ship Search and Detection of Incident and Sampling are delivered to the Public Prosecutor in a form of forensic investigation file to open a file for smuggling against the ship’s command.
The above act does neither lead any enforcement against the vessel’s interest nor results in detention of the vessel.
However, it may result in arrest of the vessel’s command at their next entry to Turkish territories and consequent prisoning if they found guilty. On the basis of the above and in order to avoid any actions from Turkish Customs and/or criminal actions against crewmembers and/or subsequent delay to vessel’s schedule, Members should be notified to pay particular attention to the declaration of bunkers when arriving a Turkish port and same to be in accordance with the real bunkers onboard at the time of arrival.
A potential misdeclaration may be treated as an act of smuggling and could have criminal consequences.
It is understood that it could lead to:
- confiscation of the excess/undeclared fuel
- investigation for smuggling against the master and chief engineer
- arrest/imprisonment of the master and chief engineer during the ship’s next call in Turkey
It is understood that there is no risk against the shipowner or the ship itself.
Ships are advised to be extra cautious when measuring the fuel on board for declaration purposes, particularly when calling Turkish ports.