Customs Trouble in Croatia

17 September 2008 By Kate Lardy

Capt. Rupert Parkhouse of the yacht M/Y Daydream ran into some unexpected trouble recently in Croatia that resulted in the loss of a charter and hefty fines before an appeal was granted.

Parkhouse bunkered 17,000 liters of fuel in Nice that was colored blue-green, which is the norm in France to identify it as being tax free. After a couple stops, he arrived five-and-a-half days later in Split, Croatia, to pick up charter guests.

Daydream was cleared in, took a berth at the marina, and then the captain was approached by customs officials who asked to take a sample from the tanks.

That’s when the trouble began.

Blue-colored fuel in Croatia is reserved for use by Croatian fishing boats and there arose some suspicion that the fuel was obtained illegally within the country.

The next morning the Split customs officials informed the captain that the yacht had committed an offense by having blue-green fuel in the tanks, that fines had to be paid before the yacht was able to move, and that no guests could join the boat.

All the while working with his agent, BWA Yachting, the captain paid the initial fines, which were 10% of the legal maximum. Later in the day he learned that the yacht would be further fined €48,315, calculated at a rate of 10 Kuna/liter of tank capacity.

Parkhouse provided Customs with the bunkering note for the fuel that day, as well as the supplier’s invoice and the fuel’s technical specifications, but it didn’t seem to make a difference, he says.

At that point the appeal process began and the yacht was prohibited from moving.

The captain stated in an Aug. 26 email, seven days after the fuel samples were initially taken by Customs, that: “The authorities do not seem to now dispute that we bought the fuel legally in France. The issue seems to be that we had (and still have) blue-green diesel in the tanks. This is apparently a prohibited color in Croatia…”

Two weeks later BWA Yachting issued a statement that the matter had been resolved in the yacht’s favor. The appeal was granted and all proceedings and fines against the yacht had been suspended.

The decree made on September 10 says the Port Customs Branch in Split made a series of omissions during its inspection, including the absence of a laboratory analysis of the fuel sample taken that would have established that the fuel was indeed purchased in France.

Although this story ends happily, the yacht suffered a lot of inconvenience during the matter.

The moral of the story? As BWA states: “It is pertinent for the yachting community to note that yachts traveling in Croatian waters with colored duty-free fuel have a copy of the invoice on board to prove such purchase.”

Do you have any colorful fuel stories to share? Leave your comments below.

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