Extract from an update issued by the Norwegian P&I Club in the matter of stowaway risk that ship owners are facing.
Illegal immigrants at African ports seek to gain access to vessels in the hope that they will be taken to Europe or North America. In spite of tightening the rules, there has been an increase in the stowaway problems. Under these circumstances, the South African Department of Home Affairs has brought to force a stringent approach to do away with the menace. Henceforth the term ‘trespasser’ shall be replaced as a ‘stowaway’. This would mean that the vessel or ship owner and their P&I club would be held responsible for the cost and liabilities of the disembarkation and repatriation of that person.
In many cases stowaways gained access to a vessel by simply walking up a gangway unchallenged, they then blend in with the stevedore gangs. It would, therefore, be prudent not to deny access to anyone who does not carry a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) permit. In the case of such a person being found aboard a vessel, it would be the stevedore foreman’s responsibility to explain the presence of such a person onboard.
- The crew is advised to take a picture of the stevedore together with the stevedore foreman as evidence that the stevedore boarded the vessel in the actual port.
- The vessels’ security desk should, if possible, implement a pass system collecting all the TNPA permits from the stevedores upon their arrival and returning the permit to the stevedore upon disembarkation .
- Anybody trying to gain unlawful access to the vessel should be escorted to the bottom of the gangway without undue delay.
- The port security should be involved for added security and assistance.
- It may be advisable to move the vessels’ security desk to the bottom of the gangway to increase control of access to the vessel.
All members and clients would benefit by educating their crew and operational staff about the increased risks posed by stowaways. Ports, vessel owners would do well to make a proper risk assessment of the prevalent situation and make note of the recommendations of the club.