All ships sailing into Durban and other ports have been warned to conduct stricter searches for stowaways and smuggled wild animals to reduce the risk of the Ebola virus getting into South Africa.
In a circular sent to shipping companies on Monday, senior Transnet harbour master Naresh Sewnath said the new measures would apply to all ships arriving from the high-risk countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Gambia, as well as medium-risk nations (Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia).
“As a consequence, with immediate effect, all vessels calling at South African ports from high-and medium-risk areas will be stringently screened by Port Health officials at anchor, prior to the vessel entering into port.”
All ships from Ebola-risk areas would also be required to carry out thorough searches for stowaways before entering harbour and to provide a written report to the harbour master.
“Recent incidents of stowaways have highlighted the importance of stricter controls from ships’ masters. The last group of three stowaways claimed to swim from shore to the rudder and hid inside the trunk of the rudder,” he said.
“Stowaways are a challenge to all in the industry and could play a role in the spreading of communicable diseases from other countries.
“It is therefore important that ships’ masters exercise extreme caution and conduct proper searches, using qualified personnel, to ensure there are no stowaways on board their vessels.”
These searches should also be extended to include any wild animals.
Sewnath warned that if any stowaways were found on vessels entering local harbours, Transnet reserved the right to take “appropriate action”, including holding companies liable for any costs resulting from such incidents.