Lessons Learnt: Stowaway Incident
The vessel was scheduled to call at two West African ports for cargo operations. At the first port of call, all operations took place without any untoward incident. However, shortly after berthing alongside at the second port of call as preparations were underway to commence cargo discharge, the crew found two stowaways who had been hiding inside the deck crane pedestals. The vessel's master immediately informed the relevant authorities and the P&I Club local correspondent. The stowaways were promptly disembarked and repatriated two days later with the efficient assistance of the correspondent and the vessel's local agents. Although no delay in departure was incurred, the local authorities imposed a fine on the vessel and Owners were also exposed to various costs associated with the processing and repatriation of the stowaways.Analysis
The vessel's crew had carried out a stowaway search both before and after departure from the first port of call. However no stowaways were discovered during either of these searches. Questioning of the stowaways revealed that they had secreted themselves in small open topped casings inside the crane pedestals as seen in the accompanying image below. The crew had completely overlooked these spaces during their stowaway searches. The stowaways also alleged that they were assisted in hiding in that location by members of the stevedoring gang who had access to and were familiar with the cranes. In this case, the vessel and Owners were very fortunate that the stowaways could be removed from the vessel shortly after their discovery. If the authorities had refused disembarkation, the stowaways could potentially remain on board for weeks or even months. When this occurs, a considerable psychological, operational and financial burden is placed on both the crew and ship owner until their eventual removal.Lessons Learnt
- Members with ships bound to ports with an established risk of stowaways should take stringent precautions to prevent unauthorised boarding in accordance with ISPS requirements
- The ship staff should endeavour to monitor stevedore numbers and movements on board. Stowaways are often able to board and conceal themselves with the active assistance of stevedores
- It is essential that diligent stowaway searches are carried out by the crew prior to departure, including all dark and difficult to access areas
- Members may also consider assistance from specialised external search teams before leaving port
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The Club wishes to bring to Members' attention that during the recent XIX Party Congress in Beijing, the local authorities in China implemented enhanced security measures at all ports. We were aware of a number of cases where crew members were required by local authorities to surrender their mobile phones or other electronic devices for inspection when ships call at ports in China. Those inspections appeared to have been conducted at random, of if a ship was specifically identified as posing a security threat.