Migration is a current topic in the world. Not for the first time, shipping is being used by people to get from one place to another. One way they do this is by hiding on ships sailing from one continent to another. This is not a new development, but trends are changing and there are some routes that are used more often or in a different way by migrants.
NNPC Correspondents have recently been able to assist shipowners and their P&I Clubs in two cases where undocumented and unregistered passengers had been found on a ship.
It is important not only for the shipowner, but also for the master and crew, that people who do not belong on board the ship go ashore. The master and crew obviously have a duty of care towards stowaways found, but this cannot last indefinitely. It is in everyone’s interest that the stowaways disembark properly and that they are given an opportunity to tell their story to immigration officials. The ship can continue her journey. The safety of ship, crew, cargo and immigrants is ensured.
In a recent matter, stowaways were found on board a ship bound for the Baltic Sea area from South Africa via Rotterdam. NNPC Correspondents was called in to assist. We contacted the Immigration Police at the port of Rotterdam and the embassy of the country from which the stowaways claimed to be citizens, on behalf of the carrier. We invited a representative of that embassy on board on behalf of the master and the shipowner, after the Immigration Police had first spoken to the migrants. Together with that consular representative, we spoke to the migrants. At the same time, we were able to gather information on the origin of the stowaways and their identity through the international P&I network. This allowed us to establish the identity of the men with a fair degree of certainty. The degree of certainty was sufficient for the Immigration Police and Dutch authorities to disembark the men and allow the ship to continue her voyage. A good example of excellent cooperation between all parties involved, safeguarding the interests of both the ship and the migrants. The P&I Correspondent played a key role in achieving the result, adding value through his expertise and good networks.
The shipping company remains liable for repatriation and for the costs involved. So the case is not yet settled, but the ship was able to leave port without stowaways on board. We will continue to monitor the case and we will continue to protect the interests of the shipowner and his P&I Club.
Warning: Our contacts with the authorities revealed that there seems to be a trend that more migrants will try to travel from South African ports to the port of Rotterdam , and possibly other ports in North-West Europe. Masters of vessels in this trade are strongly advised to take all measures that should prevent the boarding of migrants at the port of loading in South Africa. From surveillance during loading to a search of the vessel before departure. But in some occasions it remains difficult to detect people on board a ship, since stowaways even hide right up to the top of ship cranes to avoid detection.
A second case involved a number of refugees from Syria. The background of these people was again completely different from those from Africa. But in this case, too, we managed to assist in disembarking these stowaways. Some delay of the ship was unavoidable, but in good consultation with the Dutch authorities on the one hand and the shipowner, the master and the P&I Club of the ship on the other hand, we still managed to achieve the goal: the men were disembarked, the ship could continue her voyage in a safe way and the refugees were properly taken care of. We will, of course, continue to monitor this case as well to protect the shipowner’s interests.
For assistance and advice on stowaway matters, NNPC Correspondents is always available: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you should have any questions.