Stowaways - Prevention Guidance

March 2009

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The Club often has to deal with stowaway cases. More often that not, these can be protracted, complicated and expensive, quite apart from the burden that is placed on the Master and ship’s crew in dealing with and policing stowaways onboard prior to repatriation taking place, which can often take some time. 

As is so often the case, with stowaways prevention is far better than cure. With this in mind, the following points have been drafted to give guidance to Masters and crews on measures they can implement, wherever possible, to mitigate the likelihood of stowaways boarding their vessel: 

1.       Information on recent stowaway cases can be found on the IMO website in the circulars section under FAL.2 (Reports on Stowaway Incidents) and can be used by Masters in evaluating the stowaway risk associated with a particular port. 

2.   When a vessel is anchored in a port or country with a known stowaway problem, lookouts should be increased and a close radar watch maintained to ensure the early detection of the approach of small vessels. 

3.   At anchor, ensure that hawse pipe covers are fitted and secured at all times when the anchor cable is not being heaved or paid out. If no hawse pipe covers are fitted, the anchor washes can be left running to prevent persons climbing the anchor cable. 

4.   At anchor floodlights should be set so as to illuminate the area surrounding the vessel and in port the offside of the vessel should be lighted so that approaches by unauthorised boats can be detected as early as possible. 

5.   Pilot ladders, once their use is complete, should be recovered onboard and stowed. They should not be left over the side unattended. 

6.   An accommodation ladder or gangway needs to be manned by the duty watchkeeping rating at all times whilst alongside to ensure that unwanted persons do not board the vessel. If the watchkeeper needs to leave the gangway/accommodation ladder and cannot be relieved by another crew member, the gangway/accommodation ladder should, if possible, be lifted clear of the wharf to prevent unauthorised persons boarding. 

7.   Lockers, stores and entrances that are not required for accommodation access or cargo operations should be kept locked. Accommodation superstructure access should be limited to one or two doors. The remaining doors should be locked from the inside using suitable means to ensure that they can be easily opened from the inside in the event of an emergency. 

8.   Vent trunkings and other voids in which a person could secret themselves should be made inaccessible by used of wire mesh, grills or steel bars welded/fitted across the entrance. 

9.   Where necessary local watchmen should be employed and utilised to supplement the vessels crew and periodic random deck patrols mounted whilst at anchor or alongside in port. 

10. Prior to the departure from port, and once all shore labour has departed the vessel, a thorough search should be conducted of the vessel. If it is not practicable to conduct a full search, then a search should be made of unlocked areas and the use of suitable seals on doors and hatches is of benefit to show that they have not been disturbed whilst in harbour.