One of the menaces to maritime security and the marine industry is a stowaway, and the best approach to combat this illegality is conducting a thorough stowaway search.
Who is a Stowaway?
A stowaway is a person or group who secretly enters a vessel or a cargo loaded in a vessel, without the knowledge of the maritime personnel aboard, heading for the destination of the ship or vessel and is later discovered on board after the ship departs from the port or while unloading cargo.
Stowaway cases represent a very significant cost for shipowners and their management, according to data captured by the International Maritime Organization.
In 2002, according to Dryad Global, the average cost to ship insurers of each stowaway case was approximately USD 7,000. By 2008 this figure had increased significantly, to just over USD 18,000 (excluding the applicable deductibles paid by the Member).
If more than one stowaway gains access to the vessel, the costs have been known to escalate to in excess of USD 100,000, because repatriation is usually only permitted with two security guards escorting each stowaway. Incidents of stowaway typically have certain geographical areas with the highest risk, and they include all of Africa, parts of Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
Stowaways may gain entry onto a ship either by bribing port authorities, presenting fake means of identification, pretending to be a stevedore, or jumping into the water before climbing the stern or rudder of a vessel. They use false walls which help them hide inside a container, and they also carry food and water to survive the long run of the ship.
Reasons for stowing away may include political, economic, criminal, or adventure. However, one of the primary reasons stowaways give is searching for a better life outside their host countries.
Masters and crew members should be particularly vigilant and focus on measures to prevent stowaways from gaining access to their vessels.
Read: Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and Somalia
Stowaway search best practices
Here are some stowaway search best practices:
1. Boat masters and crew members must conduct thorough risk and port assessments to prevent stowaways from boarding.
2. Hire a professional stowaway search company to thoroughly inspect your vessel before departure. Naturally, stowaways want to remain undetected so they’ll choose the places which are rarely inspected by the ship’s crew. Places like the engine room, paint locker, steering flat, stern, etc.
3. Establish a secure storage area for certain cargoes likely to serve as hiding places for stowaways.
4. Constantly patrol port areas
5. Stowaways discovered during an inspection should be handed over to law enforcement authorities
Read: Top Security Escort Vessels in Nigeria
The presence of stowaways on board ships may bring serious consequences for ships and, by extension, to the shipping industry as a whole, as stipulated by the IMO.
The repatriation of stowaways can be very complex and cost-intensive, involving a significant amount of procedures and paperwork.
If a stowaway is discovered in your boat at the point of landing, your ship or company will be responsible for all the disembarking and repatriation costs and may likely be punished by regulatory authorities for lack of proper security and stowaway search.
It is therefore advisable for boat masters and crew members to make stowaway search a paramount exercise, or hire a professional company that can do the job.
Aquaterra Stowaway Search
Our maritime security company Aquaterra Solutions Nigeria Limited has the machinery to conduct a thorough and professional stowaway search for your cargo or vessels at berth. Our stowaway search is conducted by a specially trained team (including naval personnel) and trained sniffer dogs. Typically, the search should take between 3-4 hours. In addition, we maintain technical stowaway surveillance until the vessel set sails. In Nigeria, we have extended our stowaway search services to Lagos anchorage area. We are also one of the only companies with the capabilities to search offshore.
Check out our maritime security services.