Stowaways found on Torm Lines ship

Feb 14, 2003
Author: P&S

US Customs Service agents who boarded the 18,030-dwt Torm Lines multi purpose ship Torm Brigitte in Camden harbour as part of a drug sting at the weekend got more than they bargained for.

In addition to a kilogram of heroin with a street value of US0,000, they also discovered a total of 23 stowaways from Ghana and Ivory Coast, aged between 15 and 45, who had hidden in various parts of the ship, including above ceiling panels.

The stowaways had gone on board the ship two weeks earlier when it loaded cocoa beans and timber at the Ivory Coast port of Abidjan.

The Danish-owned ship had been under investigation since November 2002 after Customs Service officials learned that it was being used to smuggle drugs. The first stowaway was discovered when the ship called at Brooklyn, New York, but officials had no idea even more surprises remained hidden on board.

After arrival at Camden three days later the ship, which was renamed Aeolian Sky whilst in Brooklyn, was placed under surveillance. Customs Service officials observed and later arrested a man, identified as a Ghanaian citizen now living in New York, who boarded the ship carrying a box and who later disembarked empty-handed. After searching him they found two bricks of heroin hidden on his body. He told authorities he was supposed to deliver the drugs to a third person before returning to the ship for further supplies.

Customs Service officials then boarded the ship and carried out a thorough search, uncovering the further 22 stowaways.

A Safmarine spokesman told Ports and Ships today (14 February) that the Torm Brigitte was being re-delivered to its owners in Savannah having reached the end of a three-year charter agreement with Torm Lines (a division of Safmarine).

“The name change was made during the New York call as Cyprus authorities only have representation there. Torm Lines sold Torm Brigitte to new European-based owners three years ago and chartered (back) from the same party. As such this party is responsible for the vessel’s technical and marine management, including staffing,” he said.

Torm Lines was taken over by AP Møller in September 2002. During December Safmarine was appointed to handle the lines’ breakbulk services (see report in Ports & Ships News dated 23 December 2002).

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