Norwegian P&I Club Gard issued an update on South Africa, on the pressing matter of stowaway risk exposure that ship owners are facing.
The South African Department of Home Affairs has implemented a stricter approach to the definition of a ‘trespasser’ as opposed to ‘stowaway’, resulting in increased repatriation costs and therefore increased risk exposure for shipowners and their P&I clubs.
There are today a large number of illegal immigrants in South Africa and many of these work in South African ports as casual labour. The policy generally applied by South African Port Authorities is to impose an obligation on the crew to check the identity of everybody being given access to the ship. If any non-South-African individuals who are permitted to stay and work in South Africa get on board the ship whilst in port, the shipowner will be liable for the costs of their repatriation. It is for the shipowner (crew) to demonstrate that the individual involved were caught trying to gain unlawful access to the vessel.
It is important to note that no one should be allowed access to the vessel whilst in a South African port unless they are in possession of a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) permit. If an individual without such a permit is boarding as part of a stevedore gang, the stevedore foreman must explain why this person does not have a permit and the crew is advised to take a picture of the stevedore together with the stevedore foreman as evidence that the stevedore boarded the vessel in the actual port. The vessels’ security desk should, if possible, implement a pass system collecting all the TNPA permits from the stevedores upon their arrival and returning the permit to the stevedore upon disembarkation. Anybody trying to gain unlawful access to the vessel should be escorted to the bottom of the gangway without undue delay and port security should be called for assistance. Every effort should be made to categorize the person as a trespasser on port property. It may be advisable to move the vessels’ security desk to the bottom of the gangway to increase control of access to the vessel.
Members and clients with vessels calling at South African ports should ensure that crews and operational personnel take note of the increased risk resulting from the stricter approach outlined above, as well as the general potential risk of stowaways. Based on a risk assessment of the actual situation, the port facilities and vessel and/or cargo type, the above mentioned recommendations should be noted, and in addition the measures listed in Gard Guidance on Stowaways, section 2.3 “Vessels surroundings and port area” and section 2.4 “On board own vessel”.