INS, Customs uncover evidence of stowaways entering port Officials suspect ring operating out of France

July 16, 1996|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Federal agents found evidence of stowaways last night in a ship that arrived in Baltimore from the port of Le Havre, France, in what they believe is part of a smuggling ring that is using this city as its destination point.

Agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service targeted the MSC Rita, which is docked at Dundalk Marine Terminal, because it fit the profile of three ships in which stowaways or evidence of stowaways have been found in the past month, said Stephen Fickett, deputy director of the INS Baltimore District.

All of the stowaways came from the port of Le Havre and all slipped into containers carrying Evian water, he said.

A week ago, three stowaways were found aboard the Pol America, and on June 30, four stowaways were found aboard the MSC Insa, all of them from Russia or Eastern Europe. On June 2, evidence of stowaways was found in an empty shipping container at the port.

"It's definitely a smuggling operation," Fickett said. "You don't get four groups of people equipped to cut their way out of a metal box without some organization behind them."

About 7 p.m. yesterday, longshoremen began unloading 33 shipping containers from the ship that left Le Havre on July 9, making stops in Boston and New York before arriving in Baltimore yesterday. They found one container -- two-thirds filled with water bottles -- that contained blue plastic bags of human waste, plastic bottles filled with urine and traces of food. No stowaways were found.

Pub Date: 7/16/96

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