Argentina: Customs Fines - Q and A


Published: 16 November 2015

Further to our circular dated 9 October 2015 we are posting a number of questions and answers and we are grateful to Pandi Liquidadores SRL for providing further clarification on this challenging topic.


1. Is declaring the lube oil in the auxillary engines a new common customs "requirement"?
We confirm that declaring the luboil in use in the sump tank and auxiliary engines has become a new common requirement from the customs, particularly that of San Nicolas.

2. Is there any publication setting out in precise terms / what are the current Customs House regulations in respect of declarations to be made by foreign vessels calling at Argentinian ports.
As to what is to be declared in the ''ship's store list'' named as per the Customs Code in Spanish as ''manifesto de rancho'' section 507 of the Customs Code reads:

They are ''ship's store list'', i.e. the catering supplies and supplies of the vessel, fuel, spare parts, gear, utensils, groceries and other merchandise being on board the vessel for their own consumption and for its crew and passengers.

On the other hand the section 135 refers to the documentation to be submitted by the vessel on arrival:

ship must bring on board for presentation to Customs Service:

  1. a) Cargo manifest
    b) Shore list
  2. there is no obligation to to put in the manifest the gear and utensils of the ship or the accompanied luggage of passengers.


As it can be noted, ''ALL'' goods on board are in general covered by the contents of the section 507 of the Customs Code and are to be declared. The Customs Code does not, 'exhaustively' or 'in detail', indicate each item on board to be declared but do that in general.

Hence, unfortunately our law is not very clear regarding the articles/stores and spares that should be declared in the store list. That is why several customs, San Lorenzo among them, have the criteria of requiring the declaration of all the articles onboard, with the exception of ship parts. Notwithstanding we would comment that we have litigation with customs where the customs commenced proceedings alleging that grabs and a free fall lifeboat were undeclared (not resolved yet) as well as engine inventory (by which we have had some favourable outcome) and two radars (favorable outcome recently) were in shortage which in fact were declared twice in the ship's store list. Besides on a very recent case where the ship was released yesterday in Bahia Blanca the customs alleged the non-declaration of various nautical equipments, such as VHF, Radars, Gyro Compass etc..

3. Would 'bunkers, lubricants, chemicals, paints, thinners and so related' include what is already there in the cranes and cargo gear on deck and other equipment like Aircon compressors, etc.?
San Nicolas customs has in some opportunities alleged undeclared luboils in the cranes and cargo gear on deck.

4. How are owners to declare lube oils in use in the system of aux engines, for example, where it is impossible to determine the quantity accurately? If an estimate is used, can that also be questioned and could owners be accused of mis-declaration?
We would suggest to declare separately the spares luboils in tanks form and that of the sump tanks as to avoid any tricks from customs (mainly San Nicolas) alleging deficiencies. San Nicolas customs has on some instances measured the sump tank and alleged more oil in the tank declared which is obvious since vessel measures in movement and customs measures later in repose.

5. If we were to challenge the customs inspector, what could be the possible consequences? Will the vessel be arrested? If arrested, what is the process to vacate the arrest and how long would it take, cost? And how would the case itself be resolved - through an independent survey of the onboard inventory to verify if the declaration is correct or not?
The vessel is detained when there are undeclared spares/stores (section 962 of the Customs Code - undeclared goods) rather than when they are missing (section 954 of the Customs Code - shortage/ inaccurate declaration). Generally the vessel would be released with the payment of the automatic fine and/or the deposit in guarantee of the potential fine. This will depend on the port.

6. How do you think owners should deal with this matter going forward so as to avoid problems with customs in Argentinian ports? Having the correspondent present during the customs inspection?
As to avoid problems with Customs in Argentinian ports, ship's store list should be perfectly be reflecting what is on board as per customs criteria and owners stress that masters should be careful when declaring quantities as we have found in various occasions that the quantities of for example of lub oils, chemicals are duplicated in the store list but when quantities are checked by the customs search gang there is a discrepancy which then leads to fines for shortages or undeclared items which in reality do not exist but which are difficult to prove later on.

For vessel specific enquiries, members are asked to contact their usual Skuld business unit.

Prepared with assistance from Pandi Liquidadores S.R.L.