In recent months we have seen a significant increase in the number of stowaways, especially on vessels enroute to the United Kingdom. We would like to inform our members of the risks and provide advice based on recent incidents.
The frequency with which stowaways attempt to reach the UK has increased significantly this year, especially from ports along the western European coast. At the same time, the UK immigration policy has become significantly more restrictive making it more difficult to disembark or repatriate stowaways in the United Kingdom.
Based on recent incidents it appears that in many cases the stowaways come on board in larger groups and in a manner which is both coordinated and well organized with UK bound vessels being specifically targeted. Given the fact that these vessels usually reach their destination within a day or two, stowaways are often not found until the vessel has arrived in the destination making a return to the original port impossible. In light of the more restrictive policies of the UK immigration authorities it is then often difficult to disembark stevedores which causes additional delays and costs for the shipowner.
We recommend that when sailing to the UK shipowners:
- Provide information and guidance to the crew well in advance on the risks and to make them aware of the measures that can be taken.
- Limit access to the vessel in port as much as possible, register visitors and shore personnel and check that all visitors have actually been disembarked before departure. Keep access points, storage and living areas locked whenever possible.
- Always have sufficient lighting on deck and possible access routes. The use of cameras is also recommended, taking into account privacy regulations which may apply.
- As far as possible, in particular in the case of potentially sensitive cargo such as containers, project cargo, nacelles and windmill blades, check that there are no stowaways hidden in the cargo, even if the cargo is sealed. We also advise contacting the charterer in advance about the measures they are taking themselves and to coordinate this as much as possible.
- Before departure, carry out the necessary searches of all rooms and areas where stowaways may have hidden and record the results in the logbook.
We would also recommend incorporating an appropriate clause, such as the “Bimco Stowaways Clause”, into all charter parties. This assigns the risks and responsibilities and risks and often allows owners to recover any delays or costs which may arise when stowaways are able to access the vessel through no fault of the vessel.
We also refer to our stowaway related publications, such as the “Stowaway Questionnaire” and First Response form. We recommend that Members always contact the Club as soon as possible if they discover stowaways.