CBEC directs customs officials for random search of vessels

Amid allegations of lackadaisical approach of officers in checking vessels and aircraft, Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has asked customs officers to rummage carriers to prevent smuggling or any security risk.

The CBEC has also advised top customs officials to issue orders directing boarding officers not to accept any gift.

The CBEC said that references have been received alleging lackadaisical approach of customs officials in rummaging and examination of vessels which come at berth at various Indian ports.

The references also allege illegal gratification in the form of gifts and cash, it said.

Rummaging of vessels, aircrafts and vehicles crossing land customs stations is an effective method to prevent any attempt to smuggle prohibited and restricted goods and hence supervisory officers need to adequate attention to this important preventive function, the CBEC circular said.

"While the prevailing rummaging practices need not be diluted, a full detailed rummage should be carried out on vessels/aircrafts/vehicles where risk analysis, reliable information suggests the necessity for such.

"This will also help in reducing harassment, alleged complaints and enhance ease of doing business," it said.

Some of probable parameters for rummaging could be that ships or aircrafts arriving from sensitive ports or airports having higher risk profiles; composition of crew and random selection, the CBEC said.

"While deciding these, the Principal Commissioner/Commissioner shall keep in mind the risk elements relating to smuggling of contraband goods, perceived threat to national economy and security...," it added.

On the issue of illegal gratification, the CBEC advised the top customs officials to issue standing orders similar to the one issued by the Office of the Principal Commissioner of Customs, Chennai III Commissionerate.

The Chennai III Commissionerate in its standing order has said that citing international formalities or convention, in certain cases the Master of the vessel/shipping agent may offer gifts to the Boarding officer.

"The Boarding Officer should refuse the gift politely and firmly," the order said.

It also warns that it it is found that instructions in this regard has been flouted, "strict action shall be initiated".


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