The Deadly Life of Stowaways

Stowaways are part of the normal life of seafarers. We always find ways to prevent stowaways from coming oboard our ship. A lot of reports were made wherein stowaways were thrown overboard by the crew or captain of the ship, and left to die at sea. A lot of reasons arise whenever we talk about stowaways. It usually relates to poverty and hunger that forces them to migrate illegally. Stowaways transport to different countries on different “stowaway cargo carrier”, if you’d like to call it that way. They would go onboard General Cargo Ship, Container Ship, Tanker Ship, and all other kinds of ship that you can think of. It can either result to a successful migration or they may end up being caught onboard the ship. The worst part of it is when they are thrown overboard.

How will you prevent stowaways

For years many countries and organizations, including the IMO were finding ways to prevent stowaways onboard the ship. They have call upon public authorities, port authorities, ship-owners and their representatives as well as shipmasters to cooperate in preventing stowaway incidents. They emphasize on regular patrolling within port areas and establishment. Special storage facilities for cargoes particularly susceptible to stowaway access must be continuously monitored by persons including the cargo entering these areas. You can usestowaway checklist.

What are the rights of Stowaways?

It’s like a punishment to seafarers whenever we caught a stowaway onboard. You have to give stowaway beds or room where they can sleep, you have to provide them food, etc. That is why a lot of stowaways were maltreated onboard the ship whenever they were caught. But they have rights and these rights should be respected. Let me quote an article from “The New York Times” regarding this.

“Immigration and Naturalization Service policy requires shipowners to detain, feed and house stowaways who request asylum throughout their asylum process, which can take months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This policy puts an unfair burden on the maritime industry to find a solution for a problem it did not create and has little ability to control. The threat of fines has prompted some ship’s crews to treat illegal immigrants harshly. But in severely under guarded ports around the world a handful of seafarers cannot possibly monitor the contents of the 2,000 to 4,000 containers carried on modern merchant ships. Seafarers are often placed at risk by the desperate acts of stowaways.”

“The asylum policy should not be able to force shipowners to become jailers, nor should it result in locking asylum seekers in prisons like common criminals. We need a process for according asylum to politically oppressed people, one that provides for screening and housing asylum applicants and does not delegate an imprisoning function to shipowners.” - The New York Times.

What to do in case you have stowaways

As mentioned above, you should treat stowaways with extra attention. The Captain or the crew will be responsible if something happen to a stowaway while onboard the ship. You must use diplomatic ways to deal with stowaways. Remember that they are onboard seeking refuge and they should not be maltreated.

You should never do the following on stowaways

You may probably hear about stowaways being thrown overboard. This kind of practice is not acceptable and it is punishable by law. If you remembered hearing a news about a “Chinese Captain” who allegedly thrown a stowaway while onboard a panamanian flag vessel. He was released after being jailed for five years at Panama.

“The stowaways were sent off the ship and left to fend for themselves at sea on two flat wooden rafts.” - The China Post

A related forum commented about a recent incident about a stowaway thrown overboard the ship.

“The stowaways were sent off the ship and left to fend for themselves at sea on two flat wooden rafts.” - Safety at Sea

It should never result to this kind of situation. As seafarer you must always remember “No one is left behind” and that includes stowaways.

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