Lessons Learnt: Stowaway Incident

Vessel Type: Bulk CarrierIncident description

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.


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
The UK Club's Loss Prevention team combines practical solutions that address Members' needs and claims experience with research into the wider issues that impact directly on P&I insurance and the Club's exposure to claims. Every year, the UK P&I Club deals with thousands of claims using the expertise and experience of its professional claims handlers, ex-seafarers and lawyers. With five decades of research into loss prevention issues the Club has developed a formidable body of technical material on maritime risks. Each month the Loss Prevention team aim to share some of the Club's claims experience, by looking at real case examples and identifying lessons learnt to help Members avoid similar incidents - you can find past lessons learnt here: https://www.ukpandi.com/loss-prevention/training-advice/lessons-learnt/

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