Seven stowaways aboard a Chinese vessel travelling from Nigeria to South Africa have been arrested at the Tema Port.
The culprits, Nigerians, were detected after the vessel made a stopover at the port to unload cargo meant for a Ghanaian importer.
Their arrest comes at a time that the management of the port has tightened its internal security to make it unattractive for stowaways. Stowaways are often economic migrants who hide themselves aboard vessels. They sometimes do so in collusion with a ship’s crew who sometimes charge them huge sums.
The Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Tema Port, Mr Paul Ansah Asare, told the Daily Graphic that the suspects were arrested on August 25, 2015 on board MV Guo Tuo 108, after two of them disembarked, thinking that they were in South Africa instead of Ghana.
He also said the Port Security Intelligence Department, which received the information, went aboard the vessel in search of the culprits. “It was during the search that the other five were detected hiding in the hatch, an opening in the deck of the vessel,” Mr Ansah stated.
He said the stowaways, who did not know that the vessel would make a stopover in Ghana before going to South Africa, became angry and started fighting when they realised that they were in Ghanaian waters.
Mr Ansah also said the stowaways told security officials of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) that they boarded the vessel in Nigeria since they thought it was headed for Johannesburg.
“Our intention is to seek greener pastures in South Africa due to the unfavourable economic conditions in Nigeria presently”, the stowaways told the security officials”.
Mr Ansah, however, expressed worry that punishment for stowaways in the country was not deterrent enough, as those caught were made to pay only GH¢250 as fines.
He expressed regret that the suspects who were handed over to Immigration Service officials were sent to the Nigerian High Commission to be repatriated instead of being prosecuted by the police.
He wondered why Ghanaians stowaways who were caught were prosecuted but foreigners were given preferential treatment. “In other jurisdictions, stowaway activity attracts fines ranging between $5,000 and $10,000,” he pointed out.
He, however, expressed the hope that the technological identity system that the GPHA had put in place would deter such miscreants. – -