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Web alert: change in Cape Town stowaway regulations

News & Insights 16 February 2015

This new interpretation of the regulations concerns the status of ‘unauthorised persons’ found onboard a ship prior to departure.

Members are advised that, with immediate effect, the regulations concerning the classification of ‘stowaways’ or ‘trespassers’ in the port of Cape Town, South Africa (S.A.) have changed. It should be noted that these changes had been applied to ‘unauthorised persons’ onboard ships berthed in Durban as early as March 2014.

This new interpretation of the regulations concerns the status of ‘unauthorised persons’ found onboard a ship prior to departure. Such persons will now be considered 'stowaways' by the immigration authorities rather than 'trespassers' which has historically been the case. When such incidents occur, the onus is on the vessel to provide evidence to that the 'unauthorised person' boarded the vessel in a South African port. Failure to present such evidence to the immigration authorities will result in the unauthorised person being declared a 'stowaway'.

Should immigration officials discover a ‘stowaway’ onboard a vessel, the vessel will be liable for all the costs and consequences of repatriating said person.

Upon researching various incidents where unauthorised persons have been found onboard ships prior to their departure from S.A. ports, it has been discovered that the majority of those unauthorised persons gained access to the vessel using the cover of stevedore gangs or by simply walking unimpeded up the gangway. ​This being the case the best strategy to avoid a trespasser/stowaway incident occurring is to ensure that an effective watch is maintained at the gangway, throughout the vessel's time in port. 

It should be noted that an effective gangway watch includes both checking the identity of the persons wishing to gain access to the vessel and ensuring that they have departed when their business on the vessel is concluded. In South Africa, all individuals attempting to board a vessel such as stevedores, agents, ship chandlers, cleaners, immigration, ship repairers, marine surveyors and contractors must be in possession of Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) permit. If they do not produce a permit they should be asked to leave the vessel and, if necessary, escorted back to the dockside. Port security should then be notified. The port then has the power (provided by their status as ‘land-lord’) to have the individual detained and charged as a trespasser on their property.

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