North P&I Club informed that there has been a notable change in stowaway trends over the last year and a half, as an increased activity is reported around a number of European ports.
Namely, the Club said that Robmarine reported a number of potential stowaways close to the ports of Bilbao and Santander in Spain. The recently completed security perimeter around the vehicle waiting area outside of the Bilbao Ferry Port reduced the number of stowaways found on ferries.
However, this led the potential stowaways to target Bilbao’s commercial port and are being discovered on board container and general cargo vessels heading for UK ports, such as including Liverpool, Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton, Great Yarmouth and Newcastle.
This changes in stowaway activity trend can be partly explained by the closure of a large refugee camp outside of Calais. This caused a number of immigrants to disperse.
Moreover, stowaways have been reported on vessels heading to UK, departing from northern French ports, Zeebrugge and the Hook of Holland.
What to do in case of stowaways
If a stowaway is discovered on board a vessel, the local authorities at the next port must be notified before arrival. In the UK, after being alerted to a stowaway incident, Border Force (UKBF) officials will attend onboard when the vessel arrives to complete immigration formalities.
North P&I recommends that any stowaway discovered on board to be held in a secure cabin and thorough searches to be carried.
How to prevent stowaways
A key consideration to prevent stowaways include the control of access to the vessel. Moreover, continuous watches should be maintained whilst vessels are in port, along with additional security measures.
Preventing stowaways also requires the cooperation of the port, the terminal operator and in some cases the charterer. The ship’s crew can also be vigilant by checking that container seals are intact and paying special attention to empty, open containers.
Finally, a thorough and systematic stowaway search should be carried out before the ship sails.