The number of individuals attempting to board vessels in South African ports is again reported to be on the increase.
According to our correspondents in Durban, the number of people trying to gain unlawful access to vessels in an attempt at stowing away has increased significantly over the last couple of months. With the current strict approach by the South African Department of Home Affairs to the definition of ‘trespasser’ as opposed to ‘stowaway’, the consequences for shipowners and operators can be serious. Stowaways create considerable operational problems for a vessel's Master and crew and the repatriation costs for a vessel’s owner/operator can be significant.
Many of the persons attempting to board vessels are illegal immigrants working in South African ports as casual labour. As previously reported in our Gard Alert of 26 August 2015 and 19 March 2014, South African Port Authorities impose an obligation on the crew of the vessel to check the identity of everybody granted access to the ship. Should any unlawful person gain access onto a ship in a South African port, the person will automatically be deemed a stowaway and the shipowner will be liable for the cost of their repatriation, unless the vessel can provide photographic, video or third party evidence (terminal security) that the stowaway attempted to board the vessel in South Africa.
Members and clients with vessels calling at South African ports are urged to be vigilant and be on the alert to possible stowaways. The responsibility remains with the vessel to protect itself and to prevent unlawful visitors getting on board. If a person does get on board without documentation, the ship will be responsible to repatriate that person and local immigration will not enter into any discussion whatsoever. Proper security procedures to prevent unlawful access to the vessel while in South African ports should therefore be implemented and the following measures considered:
See also the Gard Guidance on Stowaways for an overview of various preventive measures that can be taken by Masters and crew before the ship enters port, during the stay in port and after departure, to prevent stowaways gaining access to the vessel. Sections 2.3 Vessels surroundings and port area and 2.4 On board own vessel of the Guidance maybe of particular interest in this respect.
Information received with thanks from P&I Associates (Pty) Ltd., Durban, South Africa.