Declaration of medicines on board at Black Sea ports of Russia (14.03.2005).

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In addition to the articles “Consequences of discovery of drug medicines on board the ships by Customs Authorities at Russian Ports” and “Incorrect declaration of medicines in ship’s first aid kits” published on our web site, we would like to draw attention of the Clubs and the Members to the following situations which may arise on board vessels during inward examination conducted by the customs officials at Black Sea Ports of Russia.

The Masters of vessels are required to produce both general declaration of medicines and narcotic declaration of those containing narcotic, strong, psychotropic or poisonous substances. The latter should be kept separately from the other medicines, preferably in the Master’s safe.

The customs officials normally commence the procedure with examination of the narcotic medicines. Thereafter one of the customs officials accompanied by the crew member in charge of ship’s medicines is to examine the other medicines kept in the ship’s medical locker. Even if everything appears to be in compliance with the customs regulations, the customs officials usually ask the crew members in charge of the ship’s medicines if there are any expired medicines on board.

The expired medicines, if not properly disposed of before vessel’s arrival, are normally kept separately from the other medicines and may be overlooked to be inserted into the customs declaration. This may result in a fine imposed on the vessel in accordance with the national administrative law (the amount of fine is equal to 2-3 times the cost of undeclared medicines).

The situation becomes significantly complicated if customs officials find medicines containing narcotic, psychotropic, strong or poisonous substances among the expired medicines including those which may be used as precursors for narcotic production. Under such circumstances, an action is brought against the Master or crew member in charge of the ship’s medicines in accordance with the criminal law providing for severe fines or even imprisonment.

In spite of the fact that there is no direct intent of the Master or crew member in charge of the ship’s medicines not to declare the expired medicines, the customs officials do not ignore their legal right to transfer the case to the Transport Prosecutor for further investigation in compliance with the criminal procedure. As a result, the Master or crew member responsible for incorrect declaration has to disembark from the vessel and remain ashore permanently until the investigation is completed.

The Transport Prosecutors normally prefer to initially classify the case as “smuggling” which may result in fines of USD 3,000 - 30,000 or imprisonment from 1 to 10 years. Further re-classifications of the case such as “illegal custody” etc. incurring less amounts of fines will depend upon mitigating circumstances and lawyer skills.

In view of the above and in order to prevent unreasonable losses and delays, the Masters and crew members of the vessels calling at Black Sea Ports of Russia are strongly recommended:

  • to comply with the standard operating procedures on the declaration of medicines as well as on the disposal of expired medicines,

  • to seek the vessel’s agents for advice on correct declaration of the ship’s medicines before vessel’s arrival at the port,

  • to contact the P&I Club and/or local P&I Correspondents immediately upon receipt of any claim from the customs officials.

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