South Africa: Stowaways at Durban


Published: 10 March 2014

The Association has been recently notified by Messrs. P&I Associates, Skuld correspondents in South Africa, that the local immigration authorities have recently changed their approach when dealing with illegal foreign nationals found on board ships whilst moored in port in Durban.

Messrs. P&I Associates report that, in recent cases, the vessel was in port either carrying out cargo operations or carrying out a stowaway search prior to departure when illegal persons were discovered on board the vessel. Immigration authorities were called to the vessel and in each case, the illegals were declared to be stowaways rather than "trespassers", as it was done in the past.

Immigration officials have advised that the obligation rests on the vessels to ensure that only authorised people are allowed on board the vessel and that it is the duty of the gangway watch to check that each person coming on board the vessel has a Transnet port permit.

All persons trying to go on board the vessel - stevedores, agents, ship chandlers, cleaners, immigration officials, ship repairers and contractors - must have a Transnet permit. If the person does not have the appropriate permit they should be asked to leave the vessel. If needed they should be escorted to the bottom of the gangway and port security notified. The port, as landlord, will have the person detained and charged as a trespasser on their property.

A sample of the type of permit required is shown below:

Sample Transnet permit
If the illegal person is declared a stowaway by the Immigration Authorities, the vessel will be liable for all the costs and consequences of repatriating that person.

It has become challenging for the vessel to prove that the foreign person found onboard should be considered a trespasser and not a stowaway, as the Immigration Authorities do not take into consideration the stowaway's own statement, confirming that he got on board the vessel in Durban.

Skuld strongly recommend that Members ensure that every person boarding a vessel in Durban should only be authorised to go onboard when presenting a Transnet permit.

No permit - no access to the vessel.

This is also general advice, that Members should always ensure that only identified and authorised persons should be granted permission to board, and that in any event the ISPS Code needs to be followed. In case of concern it is better to refuse access and seek verification as to whether a person is indeed permitted by the Owner of the vessel to board.

Should any Member's vessel encounter difficulties, the Master should feel free to contact the Association's Correspondents directly for immediate assistance.

The Association is grateful to P&I Associates in South Africa for assisting with this update.