Budd Cameroon Contributes to Country Focus

As Club Correspondents, Budd’s Douala office was pleased to contribute to the North of England’s country focus on Cameroon which is reproduced here.

Cameroon – Country Focus

North’s claims experience in Cameroon is
varied, although a large portion of the claims encountered appear to arise from
the transport of vehicles and bagged cargoes into the port of Douala.

Other typical claims at Douala are those claims
that have an element of inflation when submitted by cargo receivers or cargo
underwriters; customs fines due to alleged cargo shortages; bagged cargo
shortage claims due to pilferage and damage; stowaways are also a prominent
risk at Douala leading to significant delays and administrative burden for the

The provision of security may take the form of
a Letter of Undertaking, which is agreed by some cargo underwriters, but not
always by receivers and could potentially result in ship arrest if the cargo
interest’s claims are not fully satisfied.

There have been a number of instances where
vessels have grounded in the approaches to the port of Douala.

Local P&I correspondents have advised that
the port and Wouri River approached have not been properly nor regularly dredged
for several years now.  Consequently, the recorded and actual river depths
in the channel and the port are unreliable.

It is also reported that most of the buoys in the approaches to the port are
either unlit, missing or out of position, hence their reliability for position
fixing is questionable.

Port congestion can also result in significant delays being encountered at

Marpol/Environmental Inspections at Douala

North has recently received reports of vessels
calling at the port of Douala, that are being subjected to rigorous Port State
Control (PSC) inspections of a ship’s sewage treatment plant.

Local correspondents have advised that the
inspections are primarily aimed to identify violations of MARPOL and local
environmental protection laws.  These inspections can potentially result
in vessel delays and the threat of large fines being imposed.  However,
more often than not, the ship’s agent can mitigate this threat by issuing the
authorities with an appropriately worded guarantee.

Two samples
are initially taken from the sewage treatment plant; one is retained by the
vessel whilst the other is dispatched ashore in the custody of the ship’s
agent.  The shore sample is tested by an independent laboratory (typically
BOCOM International) and the results compared with the Cameroon “Environmental
Standards and Guidelines” limits, which are as follows:

Coliforms 250 mg/100Ltr possible tolerance by Cameroon depending on some
circumstances 400mg/100Ltr up to 2,000mg/100Ltr

solids max 40mg/Ltr to 50 mg/Ltr

max 50mg/Ltr (Biological Oxygen Demand test over five days)

These limits are consistent with international
effluent standards adopted by the Marine Environmental Protection Committee as
stated in resolution MEPC.2(VI).

Local P&I correspondents have advised that
testing can take as much as 10 days to complete and the cost to the ship is in
the region of US$1,500 to US$3,000.

The Ministry of the Environment can also impose
for other deficiencies such as for inefficiency of
sewage treatment plant, the absence of a sewage holding tank and the
absence of a sewage water
analysis test certificate (dated within the last 12 months).  The fines
are levied in accordance with
law No96/12 of 5 August 1996 in the region USD16,615 to
USD83,072 or imprisonment for a period of 6 months.
Members should therefore ensure that all sewage
treatment equipment on board their vessels is in full working order and
consider appointing an independent laboratory to test the sewage plant


Although the threat has fallen significantly in
recent years, it still remains. In the past, Bakassi militants were assisted in
their operations by Niger Delta groups. 

Militants surrounding the Bakassi peninsular
have in the past have kidnapped crewmembers and offshore workers from vessels
stationed off Douala. There have also been several cases in which robbers have
taken crewmembers hostage, primarily to secure their escape.

The resurgence in kidnap and violent attacks
off the Niger Delta could spark similar situation in Cameroonian waters.

However, the main threat to the security will
be faced during the passage through the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) in the
waters off Nigeria, which are extremely perilous at all times. The Marine
Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) centre has been in
operation since 20 June 2016.  Members should therefore ensure that they
possess the correct registration contact details prior to entering the
VRA.  Charts (SHOM 8801CSD or UKHO Q6114) should be corrected up to date
and registration made through MDAT-GoG using the email address mailto:watchkeepers@mdat-gog.or.

How to Avoid Claims

Members should instruct their crews to be
vigilant and maintain strict gangway watches throughout their vessel’s stay in
Douala. If any person boarding the vessel (stevedores, agents, ship chandlers,
cleaners, immigration, ship repairers and contractors) does not have a port
permit then the person should be refused access to the vessel. If necessary,
the person should be taken to the bottom of the gangway and port security

Owners and ship managers should consider taking
the following steps to reduce the potential for claims arising:

accurate draught surveys at the load port

any appreciable difference noted at the load port, a suitably worded letter of
protest is to be submitted

all the hatches at the load port

seals are still intact at the discharge port

accurate draught surveys at the discharge port

ensure that no trucks are unaccounted for during the discharge operation,
conduct a truck tally at the ship’s side

correspondents recommend that vessels calling at Douala port should either
berth on the spring tide (from 2.60m) or arrange lightering during periods of
port congestion or delays in berthing.

should ensure that vessels calling at the port of Douala have in place a
detailed berth to berth voyage plan. 


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