Operators are advised that the UK Border Force (UKBF) will make significant changes to the way these cases are handled at UK ports following the announcement of tough new immigration enforcement measures. These changes will apply to ships arriving at UK ports with passengers without proper identification documents or stowaways on board, as reported by Safety4Sea.
The Standard Club claims that in reaction to the rising number of unauthorised immigrants entering the UK through the English Channel, which will have a substantial impact on ships calling at UK ports, these new restrictions will be put into place in the upcoming months.
In fact, the club has already been made aware of a number of recent instances in which stowaways have been “refused entry to the UK” and masters have been told to hold them on board despite the lack of adequate detention facilities or consideration for whether the crew of the ship can handle potentially violent stowaways.
“Several European ports are experiencing an increase in stowaway activities in which stowaways are discovered, usually in groups, on board container as well as general cargo ships heading towards UK ports, such as London, Liverpool, Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton, Great Yarmouth and Newcastle”
To ensure that stowaways are housed in safe quarters and the master is aware of his duty to detain and foil escape attempts, it will continue to be the UKBF’s obligation to attend on board and monitor ships arriving with stowaways.
While keeping stowaways safely aboard, masters must take all reasonable measures to identify, and confirm each stowaway’s nationality or citizenship, date of birth, home address, languages spoken, health status, and port of embarkation. In accordance with the most recent revision of MGN 70 (M) Amendment 1, the existence of the stowaway or stowaways should be reported to the appropriate authorities.
Operators should also be aware that the Secretary of State has the authority to punish the owner of the ship up to £2,000 per stowaway under Section 40 (2) of the UK Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 if they failed to prevent such events.
This punishment may apply to any ship transporting a person without the necessary visa or passport papers. The ship must show that sufficient security measures were implemented on board in order to reduce the punishment within the 30-day window for filing a defence.
Additionally, proof of thorough stowaway searches from prior ports should be provided. Recent events seem to indicate that the penalty will go up in 2023.
Last but not least, ships and sailors that conduct business in Europe must maintain high alertness and ISPS anti-stowaway safeguards, such as ongoing gangway access controls, increased lighting at night, and regular searches for stowaways. At high-risk ports, using external security resources is also advised.
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Source: Safety 4 Sea