Opinion Number. 62

Subject

CUSTOMS
WHETHER MEN-OF-WAR AND TROOPSHIPS ARE SUBJECT TO REPORTING AND CLEARANCE : WHETHER STORES ON BOARD ARE LIABLE TO DUTY

Author
Key Legislation

CUSTOMS ACT 1901 : CUSTOMS TARIFF 1902

Date
Client
The Minister for Trade and Customs

The Minister for Trade and Customs asks to be advised as to:

  1. The duty of troopships and men-of-war to report and clear.
  2. The liability of any goods thereon to duty.

I am of opinion that the provisions of the Customs Act as to entry and clearance, and duty on stores consumed on board, do not apply to British men-of-war or public vessels of the King (for definition see Hall, International Law, Chapter III), and that according to the principles of international law they ought not to be extended to men-of-war or other public vessels of foreign states. This has been the general practice in Australia.

As to hired transports, the master of which does not hold such a commission as would make the ship a public vessel, the Imperial practice is thus stated in the letter from the Secretary of His Majesty's Customs, London (21 April 1900) filed with these papers:
A Hired Transport having on board Troops or Government Stores is deemed for Imperial Customs purposes to be in ballast and is required to report inwards and clear outwards similarly to other vessels-the declaration of the Master being to the effect that the ship is in ballast, with the exception of Government Stores, or Troops, as the case may be.
If the Transport, however, has on board merchandise as part of cargo in addition to Troops or Government Stores, she is, as to the merchandise on board treated as an ordinary trading vessel and is required to report and clear as with cargo.
In no case are the Government Stores enumerated in the report or clearance-such stores being by law exempt from report, entry and clearance.
The foregoing practice is held to be based, in the United Kingdom, on Section 50 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876, as to report inwards, and on Section 6 of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1878, as to clearance outwards.
A Hired Transport, whether in cargo or in ballast, is held to be liable to Light Dues, and the mere charter of a vessel by the Government does not exempt the Master from the obligations of the Law as to report and clearance applicable to ordinary Merchant Vessels.

I am of opinion that such transports are not exempt from report, entry and clearance. As regards Government stores on board such transports, I have not been able to find the law exempting them in the United Kingdom, referred to in the above letter; but as such stores come within the exemptions of the Tariff as' Military Stores' I see no reason why the Imperial practice should not be followed.

Duty is payable on dutiable goods landed from either a man-of-war or a troopship, for other than military or naval purposes.

[Vol. 1, p. 464]