Mary Nour – international trade implications

Mary Nour – international trade implications
Published: 11 August 2004

Still held up in the port of Altamira and unable to discharge its cargo of some 27,000t of imported Russian cement, the Mary Nour case is now beginning to attract international attention, with the  Mexican General Port Authority now keen to shift the blame for the ship’s inability to discharge onto the Mexican Customs who apparently continue to stonewall the ships crew and receivers by their unwillingness to issue any relevant clearance permitting the vessel to commence discharge.

Messages received from the Mary Nour’s captain Steiner Dahl point to a high level of confusion on the part of the local customs who have now paid the vessel three visits and conducted extensive searches of the complete vessel on each occasion, for reasons that remain unclear. Two visits by police investigators have also taken place, ICR has been informed, and criminal charges have been set in motion against the ships crew, receivers, agents etc for “smuggling” this cargo into Mexico.

Interestingly, the ship is now being quizzed about the expiry date of the Russian cement on board with the implication possibly being that if the ship is suitably delayed the cargo will go off-spec and refused by the receivers. However, apart from the regulatory samples, the ship’s crew are keeping the hatches well battened down to avoid any moisture contamination, Steiner Dahl reports.

Customs officials at Altamira also explained to Steiner Dahl that concerns over access limitations in the port of Tampico still played a big part in the decision to refuse access to the Mary Nour. Besides this there were “political issues” to think about, although they too were hopeful of a solution being reached shortly.

Local news reports point to the dangers associated with this ship discharge and a local environmental group has been established to fight against the discharge, with several hundred local families in immediate danger of contracting cancer from this Russian sourced cement (loaded near Chernobyl, so the local newspapers would point out).

Caesar Patricio Kings Roel, chief of the main Port and Merchant Marine Directorate in Mexico is evidently aware of the rising embarrassment this case is causing his own governmental department and is now facing questions from inter-maritime authorities over the illegality of Mexico’s actions in respect of international trade. He puts the blame back into the hands of the National Customs Authorities but assures local reporters that the matter will be resolved soon pointing out that commercial conflicts should not be allowed to influence international trade in and out of Mexico. Meanwhile Captain Dahl and crew sit it out in Altamira port no doubt looking forward to an early resolution to this problem, and very much on the look-out for possible sabotage of the cargo.