A ruling admits that the Port of Bilbao is unsafe due to the high number of stowaways
The Provincial Court exempts a shipping company from paying the security fee at the container terminal
The Provincial Court of Bizkaia has concluded that the Port of Bilbao has a high degree of internal insecurity, due to the high number of stowaways that access its interior and manage to sneak onto merchant ships, in space bound for the United Kingdom. It is an issue that goes back a long way, which can even include the construction of a wall to better protect the area where the ferry that connects Bilbao with the south of England docks, but now it has reached the courts. In a ruling handed down this week, the judges exempt a shipping company from paying 730,000 euros corresponding to the ‘security fee’ that the container terminal had paid since 2019. Its ships have been subject to continuous assaults for years and the company has had to pay fines for an import of 113,000 euros to the British authorities, when the arrival of stowaways in the United Kingdom was confirmed.
In 2019 the Containerships CMA company was planted. Its managers had had enough of the insecurity of the container terminal of the Port of Bilbao and that every other day stowaways also tried to sneak into their containers and ships, with a certain degree of success. So much so that they had accumulated more than 110,000 euros in penalties from the British authorities for illegal immigrants who traveled on their ships and were detected in British docks. Containerships then began to stop paying the ‘security fee’ that it paid to another company, CSP Iberian, the company controlled by the Chinese company Cosco and which manages the container terminal at the Vizcaya docks. This rate is 6.50 euros per container loaded or unloaded from the ships.
Although the terminal has implemented various measures in recent years to try to solve the problem –cameras with people detection software, for example– the truth is that the Court has verified that it has not been enough. Thus, the record of ‘intrusion’ of stowaways or aspirants to it in their area has bulky figures although with a downward trend. Of the 7,470 unauthorized entries registered in 2017, it rose to 632 in 2020. Containerships has proven that it detected an average of more than 20 stowaways per year. This experience led him to hire a private security company to protect the stay of his ships in the port of Biscay, but an economic conflict persisted.
CSP Iberian claimed from Containerships the payment of 730,000 euros in security fees measures not paid since 2019 and initially a commercial court agreed with it, considering that the contract and the fee only oblige the terminal to have security, not that they are effective and achieve the objectives pursued. The Provincial Court, however, has dismantled this thesis to conclude, in summary, that a security fee cannot be required when there is objective data that allows it to be conspicuous by its absence. The data, indicates the judicial ruling for which magistrate Edmundo Rodríguez Achútegui has been a rapporteur, “shows that the number of incidents, intrusions and interceptions is high, so that the means that have been provided have not been sufficient to prevent the unauthorized entry into the terminal and improper access by stowaways to ships”.