Bimco warns agents against illegal immigrants who pose as crew

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 September, 1997, 12:00am

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) is warning ship agents to beware of scams involving illegal immigrants who pose as crew members.

In its latest report to members, Bimco said this well-organised scam, was difficult for an unsuspecting agent to discover, given its similarities to a genuine port call.

At least 15 cases were reported to Bimco by members in the past three years.

The council advised ship agents to verify the background of new and unknown principals through the Bimco services division before accepting any nominations.

It said failure to exercise due diligence in any crew change situation may result in serious sanctions and the agent could be fined by port immigration authorities.

'Moreover, the agent is often forced to absorb all costs involved, including repatriation of the illegal immigrants, which easily could amount to US$30,000 per person,' Bimco said.

Citing a recent incident, Bimco said an agent was notified by 'owners' Sealink Shipping Piraeus that their vessel, the Suwa, would soon be arriving in Israel.

The unsuspecting agent, who accepted the nomination, notified the authorities and arranged hotel accommodations for the incoming crew of 12.

Soon after the crew arrived in Israel and checked into its hotel, the 'master' informed the agent that the vessel's arrival would be delayed due to engine failure.

The following morning, the hotel advised that the 12 crew members had left the hotel without notice, leaving the agent responsible for an unpaid $2000 bill.

All further efforts to contact the owners or the vessel proved unsuccessful.

The 'crew members' were illegal immigrants.

Bimco said a seminar in Copenhagen on November 3-5 - Illegal Immigrants Posing as Crew Members - a Financial Nightmare for Port Agents - would address problems facing agents.