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Experts of Interlegal proved - the seizure of ship’s store by the Odessa Customs Office was unlawful

04.08.15

On 28.03.2015 customs inspection was performed by the Odessa Customs Officer of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine on board of the foreign vessel at the Ilyichevsk Fish Sea Port. As the result, 3 bulletproof vests, 3 helmets and 3 pairs of ballistic protective glasses were found on the master’s bridge in visible place, unconcealed from customs inspection.

The Odessa Customs Officer assumed that the aforesaid items were deemed as arms and ammunition and should have been declared in compliance with Article 335 of the Customs Code of Ukraine.

As the result, the protocol was issued against the master of the vessel, the citizen of India, upon violation of customs procedure pursuant to Article 482 of the Customs Code of Ukraine (carriage or actions aimed at the carriage of goods, vehicles of commercial use through customs border of Ukraine out of the customs control) and the items, allegedly deemed as object of customs procedure violation, were seized until receipt of the court ruling upon administrative proceeding.

Having analyzed the situation, lawyers of Interlegal concluded that actions of customs office were illegal. The seized items are not treated as the goods of commercial use but as ship’s stores that should not be declared, inter alia, as personal protective gear used to protect seamen during sailing in unsafe areas with high risk of pirate attacks, in particular, the Gulf of Aden (Somalia, Yemen, Oman), Strait of Malacca (Malaysia) and the Gulf of Guinea (Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana). Thus, the seized ship’s stores were purchased by the Shipowner for the purpose of crew protection.

Having studied arguments of the lawyers of Interlegal, the court ordered to close the case proceedings due to absence of the elements of administrative offense in the master’s actions and to return the seized ship’s store to its owner.

Having disagreed with the first instance court ruling, customs office filed an appeal. Having studied case materials, the court of appeal confirmed that the first instance court applied substantial and procedural law correctly. Therefore the appeal was rejected and the order of the first instance court remained unchanged.

This precedent is vital for court practice because the courts often made decisions in favour of customs office upon such disputes.

Sergey Kalitenko and Alexander Chebotarenko, the senior lawyers, and Danil Hristich, the lawyer, worked upon the case.