Monday, November 2, 2020

Crew Changes During the Pandemic Offer a Possibility for People Traffickers

Shipping and Port Agents Warned to Beware False Enquiries
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – It seems there is no limit to the deviousness of professional criminals in this time when scams and frauds are proliferating. We have seen everything from massive cyber-crimes and spearphishing attacks, to false Bills of Lading for fake goods targeting the shipping and logistics industries, but now a warning comes of a particularly heartless, and potentially murderous operation.

The case currently in Court in the UK regarding the 39 migrants found dead in a shipping container is just one in a litany of horrific outcomes to a people trafficking operation. The International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC), which issued a warning in April about the release of goods against false documents, has moved on to speak out on the subject.

Once again, as it has in many other cases, the Covid-19 pandemic has been seen as an opportunity for the despicable individuals who treat people as cargo. The ITIC is warning its ship and port agent members to be aware of approaches from people traffickers attempting to smuggle illegal immigrants through their ports.

Traffickers, pretending to be shipping companies, are approaching ship agents and requesting them to handle a change of crew, including booking travel and accommodation. Operating through an agent in this way gives the traffickers a degree of legitimacy and provides a cover for their illegal operations. Often the ship agent will make the arrangements but the migrants will simply disappear. Andrew Jamieson, ITIC’s Claims Director, explains further:

“This is not a new issue but we have seen a re-emergence of this scam. Sadly, in the past some of our members have fallen for this scam and have been left with unpaid hotel bills and other expenses. More seriously, they can face fines from the immigration authorities plus liability for detention and repatriation costs if the migrants are caught.

“Coronavirus has impacted heavily on the process of crew changes and this appears to have shifted focus away from people smuggling. Traffickers are resourceful and can pass themselves off as a legitimate vessel operator. Not every offer of business is genuine and due diligence should be carried out on all potential new clients. We urge our members, and others, to remain extremely vigilant.”