A significant fine in Abidjan was recently imposed on the Owners of a vessel after the Chief Engineer sold 17 empty oil drums to two Russian speaking men within the port area. As the oil drums were being loaded onto their truck the local customs agents attended and imposed a fine of FCFA 500m (approx. USD450,000). Even though it was agreed that the drums were of no commercial value, the authorities would not cancel the fine, which was eventually negotiated down to FCFA 75m equating to USD125,000.
The Authorities insisted that by dealing with unauthorised people, the action of the vessel had compromised the Port's security. It was pointed out to the Authorities that the men were not supposed to be in the port in the first place if they were not authorised, and had obviously passed through port security untroubled and duly escaped when the customs descended on the vessel. Given that Customs claimed to have been tipped off by an anonymous informer, the Correspondent’s Managers suspect that this was a trap set by the Authorities to generate revenue.
We would urge our Assureds to warn their vessels of such potential problems, and instruct them only to make arrangements through the locally appointed agents.