News 17 Mar, 2014

South Africa - Stowaways in Durban

Incidents involving stowaways boarding vessels in Durban are a familiar occurrence, with the Club previously having to advise Members to take particular care in this port: South Africa – Stowaways - Update. Club correspondents P&I Associates (Pty) Ltd., Durban have advised of a number of recent stowaway attempts from the port, and a change in the stance taken by the local immigration authorities when stowaways have been found onboard prior to departure.

In each of the three most recent cases, stowaways have been discovered by the crew while the vessel was alongside either when cargo work was underway, or during a stowaway search. Normally where persons are discovered onboard prior to departure they are considered trespassers and can be sent ashore for removal from the port at little or no cost to the shipowner. In each recent case the immigration authorities have declared the persons to be stowaways, making the vessel liable for all costs associated with their handling and repatriation.

The stowaways in all of these cases reportedly boarded the vessels in Durban, hiding amongst stevedores and cleaners as they came aboard. The immigration authorities have advised that there is an obligation on the vessel to check that every person attempting to come aboard possesses a permit issued by Transnet (the port operator).

Typical Transnet Port Permit
Typical Transnet Port Permit

Vessels alongside in Durban should have in place a robust watch at the top of the accommodation ladder or gangway checking that all persons attempting to come aboard; agents, stevedores, chandlers, immigration and contractors are in possession of a Transnet permit. Any person not in possession of a permit should be refused entry to the vessel, escorted to the bottom of the accommodation ladder or gangway, and port security alerted so that the person can be removed from the port.

In the unfortunate event that stowaways are found onboard while alongside in Durban, immigration will deem the persons to be stowaways unless the vessel can provide evidence to prove that the person boarded the vessel in Durban. Even when the stowaway advises they boarded the vessel in Durban, this is considered insufficient evidence by the immigration authorities due to a propensity for stowaways to be untruthful.

Members are reminded of the guidance contained in the Club’s Loss Prevention Bulletin on Stowaways. If any further advice is required please contact the Loss Prevention department.