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Bonded Stores Locker

Discussion in 'Licensing & Education' started by JohnWms, Jun 13, 2013.

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  1. JohnWms

    JohnWms New Member

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    Pacific northwest, US flagged boat. Occasional trips to Canada but don't want to empty the liquor locker down to legal possession levels every time (fun as that may be).

    Searched here and more widely on the web but was not able to find anything that called out specs for a bonded stores locker nor the procedure for using the locker and declaring the stores within.

    I did find links to customs forms such as this from Canadian Border Services:

    Forms

    But am hoping for a bit more guidance. Maybe a call to US customs is my best bet?

    Thanks
  2. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Bonded Store

    The bonded store or secure storage or custom store is statutorily regulated by the context of the international custom union and is valid for all commercial ships, yachts and boats in most countries of the world.

    In practice it means: A completely lockable safe room or locker for custom limited items, like alcohol or tobacco or even other items forbidden or limited in that country. When declearing customs, the holder of the key, normally the Captain or the Paymaster / Purser, decleares the inventory of the bonded store by means of a inventory list to the custom officer, and from that moment he is responsible for the amount of store until the ship leaves the harbour / country (3 or 12 miles zone). The inventory of a sealed bonded store is concidered Transit Items and is not affected by the law of the hosting nation.

    Some countrys are more restrictive than others by sealing the door or keeping the keys. Most of the time, the skipper just signs the inventory list and is trusted. Breaking that seal or rule may put that ship on to the chain and the skipper into jail :). I have seen customs accepting sealing a paperbox and never came back. The other extrem was sealing the door, taking the keys and returning for a complete inventory check before the ship left the harbour.

    And be carefull, most nations have special, more restrictive rules for people living close to the border of their country, because they are able to cross the border on daily basis (local border traffic).

    Just make sure, that the amount of store reflects the normal onboard usage of your ship / boat when at sea. 500 Gal of high-proof alcohol for a crew of 3 may turn the average custom officer suspicious :D.

    Without a bonded store, the british Royal Navy would be unable to visit foreign countries with their normal tankage of Rum. The famous daily ration for their sailors :p.
  3. JohnWms

    JohnWms New Member

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    Very good information. Thanks.

    It sounds like I can select a cabinet in the saloon that is reasonably constructed, install a decent lock, and use that as a liquor locker.

    Would I need to visit US customs before departure so that the contents of the locker would not be subject to re-import rules?

    When arriving in Canada give them an inventory of the locker, perhaps plan on inspection?

    When departing Canada perhaps plan for another inspection?

    When clearing back into the US plan on yet another inspection?

    I wonder if there are PDFs available for any needed forms to make the process more efficient.

    Does the locker itself need to provide for a sealing tab or wire?

    Thanks again.
  4. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    There may be special rules between the US and Canada at the moment. I have noticed, that US customs and imigration lost some sense of humour since 911, so better recheck. But to my knowledge, internaional rules still apply. In my personal experience, custom guys always secure by seal and wire, so if you provide this posibility on that door, it should be fine. It would be bad, if you are able to unscrew a wall or the top of that cabinet :D.

    For re entry the US with that stuff it depends whether it was bought custom free for offshore use or in a normal store. If this is the case it should have the tax lable on it. But ships are theoretically allowed to carry bonded storage even in there home country by following the above procedure.
  5. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    US customs shouldn't be a concern since you don't clear out. In the Bahamas they don't seem to care how much wine or alcohol we bring on the boat. Obviously we only bring stuff we can't find there, rum is much cheaper so we buy it locally.

    Coming back in the us, customs never ask about alcohol, couple of years ago they showed up at the boat the day after we cleared for a random inspection. They mostly cared about flowers, fruit etc asking they d be discarded in double bags. The only thing they objected to was a half bottle of left over Havana Club suggesting I empty it out in the sink instead of having to write it up. They saw a bunch of other bottles on board and didn't even bother asking if it had been purchased in the US before departure.

    Clearly they showed more common sense that the Canadians
  6. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    That is probably their European (British) heritage. British customs are a pain in the neck. But so are the German Customs, if you come from outside the EU. The biggest trouble in Europe is not alcohol or tobacco, its the VAT paperwork of your boat :mad:. Thats why I always pay the VAT for my private boats and all loose items on board (tender), its not worth the trouble.

    I remember, during a party on board my boat, the skipper of one of my guests came in and reminded his boss, that they had to leave the harbour (and EU waters) before midnight, because they had reached their 180 day limit in the EU :confused:. He had mistaken the counting by a few days. How embarrassing for just tax saving?

    The explorer yacht Force Blue was arrested, because its well known owner had a fraud charter setup in order to save taxes. They found out, he was the only charter guest. It was quite expensive for him to get his boat back.

    Thats why I live under the motto:

    "Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris, et quae sunt Dei Deo".

    Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.

    That helps and makes your life easy.
  7. MBevins

    MBevins Senior Member

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    Might I ask you what size of vessel we are talking about?
    Here in the Great Lakes we cross the border going both ways (into the US and into Canada). When we" call in" to Customs they don't bother us for bar stock. They only want to know if we added to it while away. It is that added portion that they will potentially want to tax us on. I have never heard of any American pleasure vessels being challenged by Canadian Customs over the 'bar stock' on their boats. I must say on the Detroit river we have a lot of cross border traffic.
  8. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    On one large yacht we took to Norway, where the price of a beer is near a weeks wages, we made a good modification. The understairs locker was made to be locked and sealed by Customs. The Lead banding and paper seal went across the door and surround, thus sealed by the Noddies and they went away happy.

    After they'd gone, two steel pins were inserted on the side of the doorjamb and the whole door and surround swung out the other way on hidden hinges. It wasn't for any devious means, but just wanting a few bottles of wine without paying a mortgage for. :cool:
  9. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Bonded store

    Many years ago, the Norwegean Navy had one of their German build submarines at the HDW yard in Kiel for refit. Because of the highly taxed alcohol prices in their country, the crew cleaned one of the potable water tanks during their stay in the yard, disconnected it from the transfer system and filled it with high-proof alcohol (we are talking about several hundred Gal). After comming home, they must have had some nice parties on board their vessel. As one of the sailors got transfered to annother boat, the crew could not agree upon his payout and this guy wrote an report to his superior officers. This scandal got known all over the country and made it up to the Norwegean parliament.

    The moral of the story: If you do something fraud or unlawfull, always keep friend with all confidants :D.

    Or the other way around: Dont make alcohol to expensive, it may cause smuggle and crime :p.

    By the way, that relation between Canada and the US customs must have been different on the Great Lakes during the Prohibition.

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  10. JohnWms

    JohnWms New Member

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    50' "motoryacht". Never heard the "bar stock" term but it's a great concept.

    Several years ago on a smaller boat I was clearing customs in Victoria, B.C. where the customs dock for smaller boats has a phone to report in. I was answering the officer's questions and when she asked "how much liquor" I hesitated slightly as I was paging through my notes. She didn't even wait for an answer just said "stay put, we'll be down right away" and hung up.

    One of the officers who showed up looked like Prince and the other like Madonna. They were slipping on rubber gloves as they walked down the dock. Prince gave me the opportunity to come clean because they would "surely find anything we had hidden".

    They spent 20 minutes tossing the boat (34' sailboat) and Prince came back out and tried the "come clean now" bit again. We still had nothing for them so they spent another 20 minutes below then came out and said "you can go". Left a big mess below.

    Last year coming into Vic. I dutifully reported about twice the legal possession amount of liquor and the officer on the phone said "you have a problem with your liquor but we won't worry about it."

    And the previous poster was right, I've never been questioned about liquor returning to the US.
  11. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Over the years of taking American yachts through the Welland Canal, I have the captain report alcohol as ships stores or bar stock, and never have had a problem.
    Only once about ten years ago a large American yacht had five cases of wine and customs put the wine in a locker and put their seal on it and when the vessel cleared the Welland Canal they called customs and were told they could cut the seal off.
    Once I had a 100' Paddle boat from Marco Island Florida going to Erie PA and when it arrived at the canal it had over 100 bottles of open liquor on board as it was an old restaurant custom officer just looked at it said I am out here and have a good day.
  12. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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    On the east coast of Canada, the only place I've been asked about bonded stores was Halifax. I just showed them the room where we keep our stores, and promised no to consume alcohol not purchased in Canada. There was no locking or bonding. I've crossed between the US and Canada at dozens of other ports.

    Now- here in Europe is a different story. I've had to bond my non-VAT-paid alcohol while in the water of the EU. While I haven't been boarded and checked yet, I hear that the French are the worst for hunting down revenues from non-VAT booze.

    My solution has been to empty a fiberglass dock box, which is usually used for watersports equipment, and use it as a bond locker. I submitted my non-VAT stores to the French authorities for a "stamp" (they love their stamps in the EU), and need to make certain that the stamped copy matches what is in the locker.

    As far as re-importing is concerned, I wouldn't worry; it's all about tax paid on by the country in which it is consumed. Thus, if bought in the US it is OK to drink in the US.
  13. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Life seems to be easy between Canada and the US as far as custom issues are concerned.

    The term bar storage is known in Europe also. Open bottles in the bar do not count, as long as the quantity reflects the amount of people on board (personal use).

    Most of the countries in the Med with the increasing need for money, are very innovative in interpreting (bending) existing EU laws to their favour. This counts for France, Italy, Spain and Greece. But the French authorities, by far are the best, as far as custom capriciousness is concerned. Some large yachts in Antibes might be able to tell some interesting stories about their "negotiations" with French Custom Officers.

    Newest trick I have heart, is asking people with less than ideal command of the French language, to sign papers in French. Thanks god, everybody speaks perfect French :rolleyes:.

    The Italians come up with new laws once in a while, in order to battle luxury yachting in their waters. But as soon as they find out, they are ruining their own yachting industry, they withdraw those laws immediately.

    Spain is permanently increasing its effort to search for VAT and their luxury tax. And there is an increasing activity, to look for illegal charter operations in their waters. This includes undercover observations of yachts.

    Greece is totally unpredictable at the moment. I just stay away from those waters. I remember, a sailing yacht got arrested and the owner fined with a redicuolus amount of money (almost 50.000 $), because the anker slipped about 30 ft before holding again. The yacht was the only boat in that bay and the ground was only sand!

    But after a while, your skipper becomes a part time lawyer and gets used to it :). As I mentioned before, the avarice to save some taxes does not pay. But as an owner of a larger yacht in the Med, you need a legal office in standby, even better a land based management office to keep everything legal and going smooth (mandatory on SOLAS yachts anyhow).