Vessels are advised to ensure that the crew is particularly alert to this risk
In the past month the West of England P&I Club has experienced a number of cases involving stowaways boarding vessels in Durban, South Africa. Members with vessels on passage to Durban or other ports in South Africa are advised to ensure that the crew is particularly alert to this risk.
In one recent incident, stowaways managed to bypass a locked gate in an underdeck passage on a container vessel by climbing through a cable run in the adjacent transverse frame, even though the gap between the cables and steel frame measured only 17 cms. In another case, a stowaway hid inside a crane pedestal.
According to Club correspondents P&I Associates in Durban, the majority of stowaways are Tanzanian nationals who have entered South Africa illegally. However, nationals from Mozambique, Kenya and other countries in Central and West Africa may also be encountered.
Unless already required by the Ship Security Plan, P&I Associates recommend that vessels take further action as follows:
- Keep a deck watch forward and aft as many of the stowaways in the recent past have advised they climbed up a mooring line at night to board the vessel. Rat guards should be securely fitted to all mooring lines and additional lights rigged over the side to help deter potential stowaways in these areas.
- Maintain a vigilant gangway watch; stowaways often try to board by mingling with the stevedores. Check stevedore identification documents and ensure that no more stevedores board the vessel than has been advised.
- Maintain a particularly close watch on ro-ro ramps, cargo side doors and any other access arrangements which are less easy to control in terms of preventing unauthorised persons from boarding the vessel.
- Ensure that ladders and ropes are not left hanging over the side of the vessel.
- At night, where permitted and practicable, lift the accommodation ladder or gangway clear of the wharf.
- Ensure that all access points on deck including store rooms, booby hatches, accommodation doors and machinery space doors are locked when not in use. Accesses to the accommodation and machinery space should be secured in such a way that they can only be opened from the inside.
- Lock all cabins and internal store rooms.
- When carrying out the customary stowaway search prior to departure:
- Re-inspect all areas that may have been examined during the vessel’s stay in port.
- Check inside all locked compartments.
- Consider the use of search dogs. In South Africa, Jack Russell dogs have proved to be highly effective in finding stowaways hiding in areas with limited access.
If stowaways are found prior to leaving a South African port, it is relatively straightforward for them to be landed ashore into the care of the local authorities without the shipowner incurring any liability for their repatriation. However, if stowaways are found after departure, repatriation costs from other countries may be considerable.
All possible measures should therefore be taken to ensure that stowaways are unable to board the vessel. Similarly, searches should be sufficiently thorough to ensure that any stowaways who manage to board in spite of such measures are discovered and landed prior to departure.
Source: The West of England P&I Club