Continued Stowaway Risk at Some Turkish Ports

Turkish correspondent warns of continued stowaway risk due to lax security at some Turkish ports.

This is a short notice to alert of a continuing problem with inadequate security at some Turkish ports and border points, exposing members to stowaway risk. We were compelled to remind of this problem as in the past 12 months we have seen a significant number of stowaways having embarked in Turkey -both Turkish and non-Turkish nationals.  The geopolitical situation and the inadequate measures taken to secure some ports mean that vigilance is required to safeguard the interests of owners to avoid a costly nuisance.

Turkey provides a convenient crossing point from Syria, Iraq & Iran to the EU. The ports closes to Syria on the southern Turkish coast, i.e. Iskenderun and Mersin, have traditionally been a preferred place for stowaways to board ship. As these ports began to receive more scrutiny we have seen an increasing number of stowaways boarding at other ports in Turkey.

Reliable statistics in terms of stowaways are notoriously difficult to obtain.  However, the scale of the flow of illegal immigrants through Turkey can be illustrated by Greek officials who put the number of illegal immigrants caught entering Greece in 2009 to approx 3,500, and in 2010 to approx 31,000 people. The biggest number of such illegal immigrants have found their way by land, risking their life whilst passing through a patch of the Greek-Turkish borders that is lined with mines.

The discovery of over 20 illegal migrants in two containers at the port of Tekirdag not so long ago, gave us the opportunity to thoroughly audit the security measures at the port and throughout the transportation chain. We found a number of worrisome gaps that are creating opportunities for stowaways or human trafficking organizations. The shortfalls in brief:

  • Dome cameras and other spot cameras although available were not in use. In fact 3 of the 4 available 360 degree dome cameras were not operational at the time of our visit.
  • X Ray scanner had been brought in after the discovery of the stowaways, but was not yet in operation. We were advised that when the port was ready to use it would be used at random.
  • Sniffer dogs were reportedly available but “in training”.
  • CO2 devices were available but not in use.

In another case involving a repeat offender, we found that the man had successfully boarded vessels via the gangway at the same terminal at Haydarpasa port in Istanbul on two occasions, and he indicated that he had also successfully boarded at other Turkish ports too. When interviewed, the stowaway confidently advised that it wasn’t difficult and that he would continue trying to stow away until he managed to reach France. Local authorities refused to press charges against the individual as they considered him mentally unstable.

With the large number of illegal immigrants passing through Turkey and the security shortcomings at many Turkish ports, Members are well advised to be especially vigilant and heighten their own security measures when calling in Turkey, particularly the ports of Haydarpasa, Derince, Tekirdag, Mersin Free Trade Zone, Rize, where the security measures have been seen on a number of occasions to be very lax.

Capt Deger Pamuk
Head of P&I Department
Kalimbassieris Maritime Ltd, Istanbul