Customs shenanigans.... - Ships Nostalgia
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Customs shenanigans....

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  #1  
Old 12th September 2014, 10:00
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Customs shenanigans....

There must be some amusing yarns out there about the efforts we all made to minimise customs duties on paying off. And on port visits.

Arriving in the Mersey on the Ernebank after a great 8 month voyage which included a lengthy stay in Yokohama and Kobe , we all had lovely Japanese goodies to declare or otherwise. ( This was in the 50's when a customs declaration form was in use - not sure about now). The procedure was that we all lined up to pay our dues on declared items. The Customs wallers plonked themselves down in the saloon and we all filed past, while the rummagers were busy around the ship. Unfortunately, I had decided to stow undeclared items under the saloon settee, and they were still there with the Customs sat on them when my taxi came to leave!
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Old 12th September 2014, 13:18
lakercapt lakercapt is offline  
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In 1956 I bought a record in the States (one of the old 78rpm jobs) of Elvis singing the hit song of that time "Heartbreak Hotel".
The customs charged me duty on it.
Packed in my suitcase and discovered when I arrived home it had broken.
So much for me introducing the latest hit to home.
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  #3  
Old 13th September 2014, 16:49
Biggles Wader Biggles Wader is offline  
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I recall wearing several watches under an expensive Montevideo bought leather coat during the rummage.I also had some bootleg Taiwanese books and records which were just plain to see but no one cared about them.
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Old 13th September 2014, 17:42
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Alistair Macnab Alistair Macnab is offline  
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UK Customs

Talk about naive?

On paying off in Liverpool with a ton of gear after a two-year trip, including record player, tape deck, speaker system all obtained in Japan, I was told to not worry but to reach the dock gate and offer the guard 10/- and I would get everything out!

Surely the British security folks are not bribable? And for so little?

Was an eye-opener to me. Seems officialdom is the same the world over.
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Old 13th September 2014, 19:28
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I did a "fill in" trip with UBC after a few years with Bank Line. First trip with white crew. Watching the face of a customs man as a drunken AB pulled a bottle of vodka from his seaboat and telling him to turn has head away "sonny" was an education.
Happy days
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  #6  
Old 13th September 2014, 19:32
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A few of us went up the road in Sheerness (70's) - the gate was normally unmanned, so one of the lads had a box of 50 Kings Eds to dispense with ashore. However, upon seeing an official at the gate, he resorted to plan B. There was an artic trailer with grass growing around it - looked like it hadn't moved in years, so he stashed the box in the steelwork of the trailer intending to recover it later. Needless to say, after a few beers, he didn't pick it up on the way back to the ship. He swiftly moved to plan C - pick them up as we went ashore the next night. Plan C was not a raging success, though. Sure enough, the gate was unattended, but the damn trailer had gone .......
Of course, we were all very sympathetic and nobody took the mickey out of him ....
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  #7  
Old 14th September 2014, 15:11
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Assault

As 2/0 of the Crestbank and a heavy smoker, we arrived in one of the Spencer Gulf ports for a lengthy stay. I ordered 1000 fags to keep me going, ( against the 200 allowed ) and the rummager found my stock in a drawer. He gleefully gathered them up, believing they were for sale, and when he taunted me a bit, I saw red and bopped him hard on the nose! This didn't go down too well and he yelled for his mates in the alleyway who came to the rescue. The outcome was my arrest and a fine against the ship - if I remember correctly. Capt. Don Mc Caffery ( on his first command) was brilliant , and it all got smoothed over in the end.



P.S. This was a life changing moment, as I resolved to give up the filthy weed after this.

Last edited by Alan Rawlinson; 14th September 2014 at 15:33..
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  #8  
Old 14th September 2014, 16:39
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I used to make sure I had plenty of fags stashed away prior to arrival in port,in particular if there was a chance of coasting.
One time, when others had run out some had the nerve to go to the old man and complain that that the Lecky still had smokes and that it was unfair, have to say that no doubt they would have had a good laugh had I been caught and fined.

A third mate who had his wife with him, stashed a coule of womens things that were not suppsed to be flushed down the toilet, in an empty ciggy carton for later disposal over the side.
We entered port where the rumage squad turned his cabin over, finding the carton the customs mans eyes lit up with glee, only to find you know what inside.
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  #9  
Old 14th September 2014, 18:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twogrumpy View Post
I used to make sure I had plenty of fags stashed away prior to arrival in port,in particular if there was a chance of coasting.
One time, when others had run out some had the nerve to go to the old man and complain that that the Lecky still had smokes and that it was unfair, have to say that no doubt they would have had a good laugh had I been caught and fined.

A third mate who had his wife with him, stashed a coule of womens things that were not suppsed to be flushed down the toilet, in an empty ciggy carton for later disposal over the side.
We entered port where the rumage squad turned his cabin over, finding the carton the customs mans eyes lit up with glee, only to find you know what inside.
I wonder what their booklet of fines recommends on those.
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  #10  
Old 14th September 2014, 19:40
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I wonder what their booklet of fines recommends on those.
Don't know about that, but he said the look on his face was something to behold.
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  #11  
Old 15th September 2014, 08:50
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After some study on the habits of customs men I gathered that they would look through stuff, climb up and look down things, but would never get down on their hands and knees on a rusty steel deck to look up. Hence the channel irons of the winch beds were a perfect place to hide a carton of ciggys.
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Old 15th September 2014, 10:01
WilliamH WilliamH is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TOM ALEXANDER View Post
After some study on the habits of customs men I gathered that they would look through stuff, climb up and look down things, but would never get down on their hands and knees on a rusty steel deck to look up. Hence the channel irons of the winch beds were a perfect place to hide a carton of ciggys.
The "barstewards"had mirrors on sticks when I was at sea, so I never tried your method.
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  #13  
Old 15th September 2014, 10:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TOM ALEXANDER View Post
After some study on the habits of customs men I gathered that they would look through stuff, climb up and look down things, but would never get down on their hands and knees on a rusty steel deck to look up. Hence the channel irons of the winch beds were a perfect place to hide a carton of ciggys.
the black gang wore boiler suits and went everywhere, so there was no place safe from their search
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Last edited by joebuckham; 15th September 2014 at 15:06..
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  #14  
Old 15th September 2014, 10:31
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There used to be a nice recess behind the name plate on a Mirlees K Major which could accomodate a few bottles or cartons of cigs.

Tony
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  #15  
Old 15th September 2014, 11:01
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I heard of some engineers using the round tins of 50 cigs covered in chart paper to make phantom pipes throughout the ship. The new paintwork made the rummage squad suspicious and they started to tap the "pipes" with a spanner. Ding, ding, ding, thunk! Ooops.
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  #16  
Old 15th September 2014, 11:23
Joe C Joe C is offline  
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On the phosphate run on the Moraybank in the mid 50s the crew decided to hide their cigs and tobacco on the tween deck beams.Unfortunately they stashed them in the dark and when the rummagers let the light in you didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to follow the footprints in the talc-like phosphate dust to where they stopped then reach up! I believe the old man was either fined or threatened with some sort of retribution and came down on the crew like a ton of bricks
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  #17  
Old 15th September 2014, 12:16
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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Bopping a Customs Man on the nose is pretty risky behaviour, Alan. You could have been pretty lucky there.

I used to reckon if you could think of a hiding place the rummagers could think of it too. They'd probably been on more ships than any of us. The best you could do was bank on their laziness - they must have got bored with it eventually.

Having said that, they never found the hiding spot on Iron Prince.

John T
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Old 15th September 2014, 14:57
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All,
The thing that set Customs Officers apart from other branches of Government was that they had a Queen's Commission and could order a Policeman to assist him in seizing goods or forcing an entry.
There was an offence of transferring dutiable goods at sea, what was it known as?, please help it has been bothering me for months.

Yours aye,

slick
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  #19  
Old 15th September 2014, 15:58
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is offline  
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Originally Posted by slick View Post
All,
The thing that set Customs Officers apart from other branches of Government was that they had a Queen's Commission and could order a Policeman to assist him in seizing goods or forcing an entry.
There was an offence of transferring dutiable goods at sea, what was it known as?, please help it has been bothering me for months.

Yours aye,

slick
Not sure about the "Queen's Commission" - isn't that what serving military officers have?

I have heard that Customs Officers can enter properties without a search warrant if they suspect there is contraband inside. I don't know if that's true or not, we were always fed so much rubbish.

I would have thought transferring "dutiable goods" outside of territorial waters was OK - if you are in International Waters, what law are you breaking?

Transferring dutiable goods inside territorial waters would, presumably, be smuggling.

We have had a couple of Customs Officers on the site, maybe they can help out with answers to these questions.

John T
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  #20  
Old 15th September 2014, 16:36
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Customs Rummagers in Calcutta.....

When the B.I. boat "Sangola" (or was it the "Santhia"?) was suspected of smuggling gold and 'taken to pieces' in Calcutta a new rule was promulgated by Customs that all 'hidden spaces' aboard ships had to be declared on the arrival papers. This meant that cavities below and behind fixed settees and any other small spaces concealed by anything else had to be hunted down by the ship's personnel and a record of such spaces made and presented to Customs on arrival.
As Apprentices, we were given the task of doing this and you wouldn't believe the number of hidden spaces and contraband we found! Some stuff was so old and had been forgotten by the original perpetrators or lost because of forgetfulness.
Harland and Wolff had built ship's accommodation with dozens of hidden or void spaces. I wonder if some of the shipyard workers had been seafarers and were sympathetic to crews seeking to evade customs?
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  #21  
Old 15th September 2014, 17:48
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There was the story about the person who wrote his name on the carton of ciggies before stashing them.
I found it better to write somone elses name.
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  #22  
Old 15th September 2014, 17:51
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At the end of an eighteen month trip in the far and middle east my ship called at a UK port on the way to a refit in Sweden, and I was relieved there. I had bought my mother a leather handbag, floridly embossed, in Egypt, and this nasty little scumbag of a customs man demanded payment of excise duty calculated to a few pounds. At that point I didn't have my payoff in my pocket, and I had no sterling cash. With the sour grin that seems to be genetic for customs men he confiscated it. I was so furious that I went ashore and found his superior and kicked up hell, and eventually I got it back.

I also recall that when tankers paid off in Fawley near Southampton, the rummagers would rip cabins apart and then laugh at the damage they caused. They had the habit of holding the pay-off crew at the port gate until the last train to London had left, and then release them.

God! How we all hated those corrupt, malignant b.......s! In the engine room on steam ships we always tried to hint to them that there might be the odd carton of fags hidden under the boilers, so that if they investigated we would open all the bloody blow down valves at once. Sadly it never worked!

Then, for the first time, flying into Heathrow airport, and arriving at customs and thinking "here we go again you b....s!" The customs man looked at me thoughtfully and said "Ships crew?"
"Yes."
"Go on through then lad!"
I have no idea how he knew that, but the excise men in the ports could have learned a lot from him, supposing that they were human in the first place!

I am aware that, nowadays, the C&E have to deal with drug imports and God alone knows what else, but their primary function has always been to make sure that the state gets its cut. Needless to say, I detest all of them for all of the years that they persecuted seamen including me.
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Old 15th September 2014, 17:55
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I once talked with a tame customs officer and he said he would have had no quarrel with bartering duty free for fish at sea, as long as the duty free never got ashore. Judging by the fishermen's expressions it only ever lasted a dew minutes.

I never heard of extra spirits being discovered after being decanted into half litre brown glass medicine bottles and labelled, "The Mixture. To be taken as required."
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Old 15th September 2014, 17:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alistair Macnab View Post
When the B.I. boat "Sangola" (or was it the "Santhia"?) was suspected of smuggling gold and 'taken to pieces' in Calcutta a new rule was promulgated by Customs that all 'hidden spaces' aboard ships had to be declared on the arrival papers. This meant that cavities below and behind fixed settees and any other small spaces concealed by anything else had to be hunted down by the ship's personnel and a record of such spaces made and presented to Customs on arrival.
As Apprentices, we were given the task of doing this and you wouldn't believe the number of hidden spaces and contraband we found! Some stuff was so old and had been forgotten by the original perpetrators or lost because of forgetfulness.
Harland and Wolff had built ship's accommodation with dozens of hidden or void spaces. I wonder if some of the shipyard workers had been seafarers and were sympathetic to crews seeking to evade customs?
Ah, Indian customs, what joy.
If we loaded at Butcher Island, Bombay, for the indian coast we would likely end up in Budge Budge to disscharge the last of the cargo.
The bond was sealed in Bombay, and was not supposed to be opened again until we had passed Bombay on the way north. As you can guess by this time things were getting a little tight even for those of us who had put a good stash away.
The engineers started to scrounge biddies? from the Indian crew which was fine until we had a movie night, the OM walked into the saloon and a fug of biddie smoke, he stormed out and the chief steward opened the bond five minutes later, passed Bombay or not.
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Old 15th September 2014, 18:32
lakercapt lakercapt is offline  
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On one ship I was on we accidently discovered a void space behind the radiator in the hospital.(it has long since gone to the scrap yard)
Used to shut the rad off and drain it. Disconnect it and take off the asbestos sheet behind it.
We cut an opening n the wood that a case of spirits etc. would pass through.
We then managed to get a whole pile of stuff (booze and cigs) in there.
Screw the asbestos sheet back on. Re-attatch the radiator and turn it on.
We bought the vodka and spirits in Poland at the Baltona duty free store and sold it at a good profit in Norway or Sweden.
One trip we did not get to Poland so paid a visit to the Tesco store and bought four cases there. Remember the store assistant asking if I wanted the Green stamps. A prodigious pile rolled off the machine and I turned round and gave them to the old lady who was behind me. She thought she had died and gone to heaven.
This way of doing it was so the stuff was never entered on the outward clearance as that was always asked for in Norway and Sweden.
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