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HomeMaritimeCostliest shrimp in the ocean, a cautionary tale for ship's crew

Costliest shrimp in the ocean, a cautionary tale for ship’s crew

The maritime world covers a vast expanse of our waters with endless horizons and bountiful (well not always) oceans and seas.. This world naturally has several anecdotes of both bounty and peril and under these circumstances, a certain degree of intrigue is not wholly unexpected..

Here is one such anecdote from the West African Coast, courtesy of the UK P&I Club highlighting unforeseen consequences of seemingly innocuous interactions..

While ships bob around in all their glory outside ports in West Africa most often waiting for berths, the ship’s crew are sometimes approached by local seafaring vendors to trade their catch of fish in exchange for unwanted scrap or some international currency..

Innocuous as it sounds, a recent such incident has caused much grief to a ship registered with the UK P&I Club..

In this case, a local fishing boat is said to have approached the ship outside the Port of Lome in Togo, offering the day’s catch of fresh shrimp to the crew.. 7 kilos were said to have been exchanged with small scrap items, for the crew’s consumption..

As it turns out, this act was classified as smuggling under the Togolese Customs Code and the ship and captain were accused of “smuggling by sea vessel”..

The ship was detained by the authorities and was not allowed to leave Lome.. As per UK P&I, their “Member was faced with criminal proceedings, the risk of imprisonment of the Master and crew of 1 to 3 years and a fine for smuggling of Euro 87 million.

Yes, you read that right – EUR 87,000,000 (87 million) for 7 kgs of Shrimp..

The authorities are said to have levied this exorbitant amount based on a local law that allows them to charge up to 4 times the market value of the assets involved in smuggling, in this case, the fishing boat and the ship..

Although the interpretation of the Customs Code in this case was questionable the ship owners eventually managed to secure a much lower settlement.. The ship owners, however, incurred significant losses by way of legal and other costs in addition to the loss of employment of the ship while it was detained in Lome..

As per the UK P&I club, they are aware of “at least two other instances of ships being detained and enormous fines being imposed by the Lome Customs authorities, for similar allegations.

Incidents such as these are a testament to the value of experienced maritime counsel and serve as a sombre reminder to the maritime community of the fine line between innocent trade and inadvertent smuggling..

Vigilance it seems will be the beacon that guides safe passage.. The club has advised their members to advise their crews to maintain a judicious distance from any unauthenticated craft, secure their vessels against unsolicited boarders like pirates, and adhere to the Best Management Practices for West Africa..

The moral of the story is that in this oceanic theater, even shrimp can cast long shadows.. 🙂


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..



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