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International Forwarding Association Blog » Sea freight in Europe » Maritime Security Inspections Safeguard Onboard Operations

Maritime Security Inspections Safeguard Onboard Operations

Security inspections support the safety and integrity of maritime operations. These checks focus on identifying threats such as tampering, unauthorized access, and stowaways. This ensures breaches are accurately attributed, and ground forwarders are not wrongfully implicated.



During inspections, security teams inspect for signs of hampering, which can include discrepancies in cargo weights, irregularities in packaging, and inconsistent stocking patterns. Other indicators might be broken seals, unauthorized modifications to container structures, and the presence of unusual odors or residues that suggest hidden or prohibited items.

These rigorous inspections ultimately benefit ground forwarders, whether the issue is minor or a serious security breach. If a minor issue is confirmed by the port authority or the ship’s security team, forwarders may be allowed to address it under supervision. Examples of minor issues include misaligned barcodes that could interfere with scanning processes, small discrepancies in weight for non-regulated items that require re-verification, and minor dents in container exteriors that need documenting but do not affect the cargo’s integrity.

If the investigation uncovers serious security breaches, forwarders are shielded from direct involvement in the complex resolution process, which minimizes their legal entanglement.


Unauthorized Access

During vessel inspections, security teams are particularly vigilant about signs of unauthorized access, including overridden electronic entry logs, use of duplicate or counterfeit access cards, and evidence of bypassed security systems. In some cases, security teams might uncover unauthorized access points, such as makeshift entry points cut into the hull or modifications to ventilation systems used as entry conduits.

When security teams detect unauthorized access, they document each instance along with details such as the time of the breach, the tools, and methods used to gain unauthorized access, entry points, and potential motives. By capturing these details, security teams can trace the breech back to the responsible party. This shields freight forwarders from unwarranted blame in situations where they have authorized access to the ship.

For example, forwarders may be onboard to supervise the loading or unloading of specialized equipment that requires specific handling procedures according to the client’s standards. They might also be present to facilitate customs clearances and manage the documentation and inspections required by government regulations. Additionally, in scenarios involving the transport of hazardous goods, forwarders could be needed onboard to oversee the correct handling and stowage of these materials.



During vessel inspections, security teams also focus on detecting signs of stowaways, another serious security issue. Inspections for stowaways include examining less accessible areas of the ship, such as engine rooms, service ducts, and cargo holds where unauthorized persons might hide. Security measures may involve the use of motion detectors, thermal imaging cameras, and regular patrols by the crew to ensure no one has boarded the ship without permission.

In case stowaways are discovered, their hiding spots, duration of presence, and methods of access are meticulously documented. This thorough approach helps protect forwarders from being wrongly implicated in security lapses. For instance, identifying specific hiding spots helps prove that breaches occurred in areas forwarders do not access while detailing the methods used can show these breaches involved specific onboard vulnerabilities unrelated to the forwarders’ duties.