South Africa bans stowaways from being landed at its ports

Stowaways caught off the coast of Durban. Credit: Sea News

The South African immigration authority has issued a ruling that it will no longer permit stowaways to be landed at the country’s ports, with immediate effect.

As a result, if the authority is called to deal with an unauthorised person found on a vessel that individual will be declared a stowaway rather than a trespasser unless hard evidence (video footage from security cameras or evidence from port security guards and any document issued by the DoHA) can be produced that they boarded the vessel in the South African port. If there is such evidence, the person will be removed as a trespasser.

The significance of this distinction is that responsibility for the costs of dealing with and repatriating the stowaways rests with the vessel. Therefore, any person declared as a stowaway in a South African port will have to sail with the vessel and removed en route or at the next port of call.

“It is common knowledge that South African ports have stowaway problems. The authorities appear to believe that stowaways are being brought into South Africa and dumped in the ports by ships only for them to stowaway again on other ships. They fail to see and hear that the stowaways are coming into the country through our porous borders and then gaining access to the ports and to ships far too easily,” said an alert issued by P&I Associates.

In the meantime, it advises that vessels calling at South African ports must not allow any person to board who does not have a port permit from the Transnet National Ports Authority. In addition, private security should be arranged to check permits at the bottom of the gangway, and two guards should be stationed on the quayside on the fore and aft mooring ropes.

The South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents chairman has written to the Minister of Home Affairs asking for the policy to be cancelled. “The minister’s office has acknowledged receipt of our letter and has advised that they will respond in due course,” said David MacDonald, stowaways and crew matters at P&I Associates.