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When stowaways are discovered on board, the cover provided by the P&I insurers is involved. Contact should therefore be made with the Company, the P&I insurer or their local correspondent.

Any guidance provided below should by no means be in conflict with any regulatory requirement related to the ISPS Code.

When stowaways are discovered on board the vessel, the Master should refer to the procedure contained in the Emergency Contingency Plan under the vessel’s SMS.

Actions to be taken
  • The discovered stowaway should be placed in a locked cabin. The stowaway should not be allowed to roam freely about the vessel
  • if more than one stowaway is found, they should – if possible

– be accommodated separately

  • the place where the stowaway was found should be searched for further stowaways and any documents left behind
  • the place the stowaway was found should be photographed or video taken
  • the place the stowaway was found must be thoroughly searched for drugs, as stowaways can be used as drug couriers. If drugs are found, the place should be left untouched and sealed off. Photographs and/or video should be taken of the location where the drugs were found
  • the stowaway should be searched for identity papers. These documents, if found, must be confiscated as stowaways often try to hide their identity or destroy their identity papers
  • the stowaway should be thoroughly searched for drugs. If drugs are found on the stowaway, take photographs and/or video and make a note of the circumstances in which the drugs were found
  • the stowaway should be questioned in detail as to when and where the boarding took place
  • for interrogation purposes a detailed Stowaway Questionnaire can be found in Annex 8
  • if there is more than one stowaway they should be questioned individually as to
  • whether they knew each other prior to boarding
  • how they came on board
  • the stowaway should be questioned as to why he/she has stowed away and the circumstances under which his voluntary return may be possible
  • if the stowaway agrees to return voluntarily it should be made clear that unless he/she co-operates repatriation may be impossible
  • the person questioning the stowaway, preferably the Master, should explain that if economical reasons are behind stowing away, no other country will accept them and repatriation will be inevitable
  • immediately notify the Company and the P&I insurer enabling the CSO to inform the appropriate authorities at the next port
  • notify the correspondent and the vessel’s agents in the next port of call or the port of embarkation, so that they can prepare for identification and repatriation of the stowaway. Generally, repatriation cannot be carried out if advance notice of the stowaway has not been provided
  • if it is impossible to communicate with the stowaway, an interpreter should be engaged ashore in order to gain an initial impression and obtain some basic information about the stowaway
  • the stowaway should be treated humanely and not threatened with or exposed to any violence whatsoever as this will incur severe criminal penalties. There is no P&I cover for the defence of any person acting with violence
  • video evidence of the treatment of the stowaway should be taken during the course of the voyage.

Eevidence to be collected
  • Date, vessel’s time, UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time) and port where stowaway came on board
  • date, vessel’s time, UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time) and location the stowaway was discovered on the vessel
  • place/location where the stowaway hid
  • duration the stowaway was concealed
  • physical condition of the stowaway
  • date, vessel’s time, UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time) and position of the vessel when the stowaway was discovered
  • was there a gangway watch at the port where the stowaway embarked
  • names and ranks of those on the watch when the stowaway boarded
  • were guards employed at the port where the stowaway embarked and details of the company
  • was any search carried out prior to departure, details of its extent, who was involved and the results thereof
  • were any stowaways found during the search, how many, location where they were found and where delivered ashore
  • records of the stowaway’s treatment during the voyage, e.g. frequency and types of meals, accommodation, times allowed out and sanitary arrangements.
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