Incorrect declaration of medicines in ship's first aid kits. Novorossiysk port. (23.05.2003)


             For the previous six months the Novorossiysk Customs House have been initiating two cases against shipowners for administrative violation for false declaring of medicines that contain narcotic, psychotropic, drastic or poisonous components contained in the first aid kit. Criminal cases have also been brought against the ship's masters, who signed general customs declarations, for alleged smuggling of drugs across the Russian border.

           Our company arranged and performed legal defence in the mentioned cases, which were subsequently dropped due to missing elements essential to the offence.

            In order to avoid such situations in future we are notifying you of the following:

     Vessel’s first aid kit medications that contain narcotic and strong substances are usually kept in the master’s safe. Other common medications that may be found onboard may also contain such components.

 In the General declaration, approved by the Russian Governmental Custom Committee, there is the following question regarding medications, “YES/NO-medications with narcotic influence, drastic medicines, psychotropic, poisonous.”

      Some master do not consider this question carefully and answer NO, assuming that the meaning of the question does not regard the first aid kit. 

“Single Convention on narcotic substances” 1961, with amendments of 1972 states: “The international carriage by ships or aircrafts of such limited amounts of drugs as may be needed during their journey or voyage for first-aid purposes or emergency cases shall not be considered to be import, export or passage through a country within the meaning of this Convention.”  In many ports of the world the mentioned medications do not have to be declared. This is why following the above convention some masters fail to declare them in the ports of the Russian Federation.

      Meanwhile, the Russian Federation law is constructed in such way, that declaring of medications containing narcotic, drastic or poisonous substances is strictly mandatory. The Russian customs authorities keep an eye on this really close. The master, against whom a criminal case is initiated is disembarked from the ship and has to remain in Novorossiysk for one month while the case is under investigation. The vessel is also detained in the port for several days creating significant difficulties and losses for the shipowner.

    Russia is a party to the above Convention, however, the customs authorities disdain it, and it is the reason why so much time is to be spent on proving the innocence of the shipowner and captains on the level of investigators, prosecutor’s office and even courts. 

1.     Masters are to be very attentive while filling out the general customs declaration, keeping in mind, that the first aid kit usually contains narcotic or/and psychotropic, strong substances.

2.      Master should ask the agent for assistance, if required, when registering the general declaration. The agent should put their signature to the captain’s copy of the declarations with  reference to the agency company and the agent’s name.

3.      In case of any claims arising from the custom officers, masters should immediately get in touch with the  P&I Club and/or the P&I Correspondent.



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