An Australian court has upheld the conviction and large fine levied against a yachtsman who was convicted by a customs magistrate of failing to announce the intended arrival of his vessel and crew into Australia. The magistrate assessed a fine of $4,000 and $15,000 in court costs. The yachtsman appealed the lower court's conviction, but last week a District Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the magistrate's finding. To add slap to face, the higher court awarded costs of the appeal to the Commonwealth.
American sailor, James Manzari, was originally convicted in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court in February 2007 of two charges under the Customs Act; section 64 Impending Arrival Report, and section 64ACB Crew Reports. Under those rules, a ship's master must provide notice of intended arrival to Customs 96 hours before their arrival into Australia by fax, e-mail or telephone. Manzari arrived into the port of Bundaberg, Australia from Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, in September 2006, but was convicted of failing to provide the necessary notice to Customs prior to his arrival.
In June, 2006, Australia introduced new laws making it compulsory that aircraft and shipping entering Australia must give between four and ten days notice of their impeding arrival by fax, e-mail or telephone. Manzari claims that he was given outdated information from the Australian consulate in Noumea stating that arrival information must be given 48-hours prior to arrival, and that notification by VHF radio was acceptable. Manzari called Bundaberg customs on his VHF radio and informed them of his plans. Upon arrival, he says he learned of the new law. The hard way.
The 2006 law has been heavily criticized in the Australian sailing community, particularly after an elderly Dutch cruising couple were convicted. The couple made radio contact with Australian officials as they approached the Port of Brisbane, after a rough, thirteen day voyage from New Zealand. Upon arrival, they were informed of the new law. They were eventually fined $2,000.
So, for any cruisers out there heading for Australia: Don't forget to pack the fax machine, computer or sat-phone. (Or $20,000 in small unmarked bills). I wonder what kind of fines Capt. James Cook would rack up today?
To read the Manzari's side of the story, click here
Sender: Rod Wills
Message: What a bloody disgrace!! Are we that hard up for revenue that we resort to such draconian measures? Who was the 'genius' twho thought that law up?! On behalf of Australian Yachties a sincere apology to our American visitors.