Consequences of discovery of drug medicines on board the ships by Customs authorities at Russian Ports


Nowadays the actions of the Customs in Russian ports, particularly in Novorossiysk and Tuapse ports, in relation to the regime of the customs declaration and keeping of medicaments containing drugs on board has become rather severe.

While the Customs formalities the Masters shall present the Drug List to the Customs officers. The corresponding remark relating to the presence of medical drugs on board is also to be inserted into the General Declaration.

However, it is necessary to note that we have faced situations when presenting the Drug List to the Customs officers on arrival, but at the same time the Master signed the General Declaration containing the statement - “No Drugs”. All the above, at first glance, insignificant contraventions usually result in the penalty imposed to the Master.  

The second and most important problem is that while ships’ staying alongside under handling operations the Customs officers come on board the ship in order to check the regime of declaration and keeping the medical drugs on board the ships. The Master’s safe with narcotic medicines and the medical locker with other medicines are examined by the Customs officers in the presence of the Master or the person in charge. The Customs officers perform accurate examination of all the medicines both in ship’s medical locker and in the Master’s safe in order to determine whether all the substances subject to drug control have been declared by the ship on her arrival and are kept in the Master’s safe. The above mentioned procedure is performed by the Customs officers on the ground of Order No.580 of the State Customs Committee and Russian Federation Drugs Law 1998.  

Very often the Customs officers manage to find undeclared medicines which  belong to different kinds of narcotic containing medicaments. As soon as undeclared drugs are found the Customs Authorities start the action against the Master in respect of smuggling the drugs. As a rule, the Customs Authorities detain the Master and in-charge persons (Chief Mate and/or Second Mate) at Novorossiysk until the customs investigation is completed. Usually such detention is executed when one day is left before the ship’s departure from the port.  

In accordance with the Customs Law the official customs investigation lasts for 15 days, after which the Transport Prosecutor judges whether a particular case is to be considered criminal and determines the kind of punishment for application.  

Generally speaking, after completion of the customs investigation the question resolves itself into penalty imposed to the Master personally, as the most of the cases are not criminal. The amount of such penalty does not exceed USD50 what is incomparable with losses incurred by Shipowners connected with the ship’s delay, changing and repatriation of crewmembers.    

Under the above circumstances we consider it very important for the shipowner to give proper instructions to the Masters before vessels’ arrival at Russian ports: 

  • to be attentive while preparing the Drug List and General Declaration at the arrival at Russian ports;  

  • to check carefully the medicaments in accordance with the International Medical Guide For Ships by the World Health Organisation or other official Guides and declare those containing drugs; 

  • to keep the process of inward formalities under permanent control;

  • to clarify all the questions with the Customs officers during inward formalities, if the Master has any questions or doubts in connection with filling in the Drugs Declaration;  

  • to keep all the medical substances subject to control in the Master’s safe during the whole period of handling operations at the port;  

  • to declare drugs still undeclared and found on board the ship by the crew after inward formalities additionally not later than 24 hours period  from the date of arrival.

  • to contact immediately the local P&I Correspondent, if any problem with the Customs arises.  


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