Vessel operators calling in Lome, Togo should be cautious as fines and prison sentences may be imposed for exchanging items with local fishermen.

Large fines of €60m to €130m and prison sentences of up to one year are being imposed on vessels for alleged smuggling.

West of England marine insurer has recently experienced several fines in Togo arising from the crew bartering minor items with local fishermen. These have most commonly been at sea where vessels may be undertaking ship-to-ship transfer operations.   

London P&I Club local correspondents Budd Group have reported three instances where items of low value and small quantity such as sludge, bottles of water, or scrap were exchanged for seafood or sim cards.

Such exchanges resulted in detention of the vessels as well as customs fines for smuggling being imposed.

The basis for calculation of the fines by authorities is the value of the exchanged items added to the estimated values of all vessels involved, as well as customs duties of 28-49% imposed on both the values of the vessels and items exchanged.

The correspondent reports that the customs authorities have refused to discuss the fines issued until a fine demand document is signed, leading to significant delays to vessels involved.

Source: West of England, London P&I Club.