Fraudsters are continuing to involve ship agents in the smuggling of illegal
immigrants by pretending they are joining crew. In the past twelve months,
over twenty approaches to ship agents have been reported to the
International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC), the specialist mutual
insurer of transportation professionals.
In the latest issue of ITIC's annual publication, Intermediary, the club
notes that the majority of attempts by crew smugglers over the past twelve
months have involved a company in Chittagong, which describes itself as "one
of the leading shipping companies in Bangladesh". Another feature of recent
reports is the targeting of agents in South American countries, including
Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay.
ITIC also notes that, sometimes, the object of the fraudsters is solely to
make money from the illegal immigrants, and not to get them to the country
of their choice. Late last year, two ship agents in Africa - one in Cameroon
and the other in Gabon - were asked by the same bogus US company to attend
joining crew from the Indian subcontinent. Thirty-three crew arrived in
Douala, and six in Port Gentil, supposedly to join a fish factory ship
having bought their own one-way air tickets and each having paid the crew
By the time the unsuspecting agents had realised they were dealing with crew
smugglers, substantial costs had been involved in maintaining and
repatriating the illegal immigrants, who may or may not have been deceived
into thinking they were getting a well-paid job on a foreign-flag ship. What
is known is that the crew smugglers earned $39,000 from the scam, which cost
local ship agents $50,000 in repatriation expenses.
ITIC has warned its members on a number of occasions about the practices
employed by such fraudsters, and cautions agents to maintain their
vigilance. It concludes, "Relaxing your guard can result not only in expense
- immigration fines, hotel bills, repatriation costs etc - but also in a
massive waste of time and effort. The former is insured by ITIC, but the
latter is not. If in doubt, ask the club."