Within the last 18 months a changing trend of stowaway activity around Europe has been noticed, involving various nationalities including those from Albania.
In November 2016 a large refugee camp located outside of Calais was partially closed by French authorities, resulting in large numbers of immigrants dispersing mainly into the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern Spain.
Close liaison with P&I Correspondent networks around Europe indicates that there are large numbers of Albanian nationals currently located close to the ports of Bilbao and Santander and that people traffickers are active in these areas.
Initially, the vast majority of Albanian nationals were targeting ferry operators in the mentioned ports, however in the last six months commercial vessels are now being regularly targeted.
In response to ongoing security related issues Spanish authorities have recently built a large wall around a vehicle park/waiting area outside of the Port of Bilbao, which has resulted in a reduction of numbers being located by Ferry operators.
This security measure has however resulted in Bilbao`s commercial port being targeted, with stowaways being discovered usually in groups, on board both container and general cargo vessels heading for UK ports.
Recent cases have involved stowaways arriving in UK ports, including Liverpool, Bristol, Portsmouth, Southampton, Great Yarmouth and Newcastle.
Having been alerted to a stowaway incident UKBF (Border Force) officials will usually attend on board, on arrival to complete Immigration formalities, thus it is recommended that any stowaway discovered is held in a secure cabin/searched for ID documents, for presentation to authorities.
Members should be aware that under section 40 of the UK`s Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 a penalty of £2000.00 per stowaway should be raised by UKBF officials, as a result of a vessel carrying an individual to the UK without the correct Passport or Visa documentation.
Representations against this fine can be lodged within a 30-day period.
It should also be noted that nationals from countries such as Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria and Albania have also been discovered on board vessels departing northern French ports and from Zeebrugge and the Hook of Holland.
It is anticipated that the level of Stowaway activity will be maintained and may well increase during the summer months of 2018.
Based on intelligence gathered from around Europe and directly fromstowaways being repatriated to their home countries, it is recommended that members vessels remain vigilant and maintain anti-stowaway measures including constant access control on the gangway, regular stowaway searches and the use of external security resources as necessary.