The Stowaway & The Sharks

In the act, people enter port areas and secretly climb ships to travel illegally to different countries. It is without the consent of the ship owner and master, to travel into international waters to reach some other country without any monetary payment and legal documents.

Unnoticed by the Ship’s crew, port, and customs authorities, stowaways may gain access to the ship with or without the assistance of port personnel. Once on board, the ship stowaways hide in empty containers, cargo holds, tanks, tunnels, behind false panels, stores, accommodation areas, engine rooms, void spaces, cranes, chain lockers, etc.  The majority of stowaways are found on board bulk, container, and general cargo vessels. Car carriers are also over-represented in stowaway data compared to other vessel types.

Michael Luguje, DG, Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority
A vessel loaded with containers ( Not necessarily from Ghana)


The Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr. Michael Luguje says, Ghana applies itself to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965, as amended, (the FAL Convention), sets out measures to prevent stowaway incidents as well as provisions on the treatment of stowaways while on board and on the disembarkation and return of a stowaway.

These are some global statistics on stowaways issued by the International Maritime Organisation. 2007 (1,955), 2011 (1,640), 2014 (1,272), and 2017 (1,420). They engulfed nationalities on the entire west coast of Africa, and a few in the north, and east of the same continent as well as some countries in The Caribbean. Most of the stowaways by nationalities moved to other countries before boarding a vessel.  In 2011 and 2014, there were more Ghanaian and Nigerian stowaways than any nationalities but they did so not in their homelands.

The presence of stowaways on board ships may bring serious consequences. The life of stowaways could be endangered as they may spend several days hidden, with the risk of suffocation and without any water or provisions.

In 2002 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.

The repatriation cost and to some extent out of emotional disaffection, the crew on ships throw stowaways into open seas and reports indicate that this incidence is on the ascendancy despite disapproval by migration and maritime laws. The 18 April 2018, South Africa’s online portal, ”MAILONLINE” reported one such case in which the captain threw pair of stowaways overboard into the shark-infested Indian Ocean with just life jackets and two bottles of water each. Three days later they were washed up on a tourist beach.

Stowaways swam in dangerous waters after being thrown overboard by the ship captain. Rare.






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