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Discovery of stowaways onboard ship -Emergency procedures, confinement, arrangement for disembarkation & deportation

Howsoever difficult or inconvenient it might be to maintain tight security to prevent stowaways getting on board in the first place and to conduct thorough searches before sailing it is infinitely less of a problem than dealing with the problem of allowing stowaways to sail with the vessel.

In spite of the search, if a stowaway is discovered during navigation, the Master shall treat him properly according to these procedures with due respect for human rights.

Some stowaways will try and make use of the rudder trunking as a hiding place. Stowaways will enter the rudder trunk when it is close to the water line and easily accessible by small craft. The stowaways will then ride in the rudder trunk until their chosen destination. A search of this area before the ship sails should prevent the likelihood of this happening. Consideration should also be given to placing a metal grid above the opening to the rudder compartment making it impossible for stowaways to enter the space.

Return to port of departure

If a stowaway is discovered just after departure from a port, the Master shall take the following measures:

(1) Consider returning to the port of departure to land the stowaway and contact the Company to decide further handling; (2) The Company shall contact the vessels P & I club;

(3) If there is no time to consult with the Company, the Master shall consider returning to port taking the following matters into consideration :

a) The Time required to return to the port of departure;

b) The Schedule of the vessel;

c) The Nationality of the Stowaway and related Political circumstances;

d) Whether the stowaway has an identification card or not. (If not, his delivery at a port other than the port of departure is very difficult in most cases).

Search upon discovery of stowaway

Upon discovery of a stowaway, search should be made for

(1) Other stowaways especially in the vicinity of the area where the stowaway was found

(2) Identity documents , drugs and personal belongings in the vicinity of the area where the stowaway was found

(3) Identity documents on the person of the stowaway

(4) Knives or other objects that could be used as a weapon and drugs on the person of the stowaway If anything found, take photographs and,

(1) The identification card shall be safely kept until just before the time of his disembarkation unless required otherwise by authorities(keep a copy on board)

Note: If the stowaway holds onto the identification, there is a fear that he will dispose or damage it to avoid repatriation. Since delivery of a stowaway is very difficult without identification, it shall be kept by the Master in the safe.

(2) Cash, knives and other possible weapons, narcotics and stimulant drugs etc. shall be confiscated and retained safely by the Master.

(3) Other personal effects of the stowaway shall be listed and put in a vinyl bag and kept on board until delivery of stowaway.

Interview of stowaways

The Master shall interview the stowaway to try to ascertain the following information:


Date of birth;




How he got onboard the vessel;

Purpose of the unauthorized passage;

During the conversations with the stowaway the following matters shall be given attention:

(1) The stowaway shall be handled politely to create an atmosphere encouraging cooperation. A chat after a formal hearing may sometime yield extra information;

(2) Do NOT ask questions about the stowaways political belief;

(3) In case of more stowaways, a hearing shall be made with each person separately;

(4) During the hearing, photographs of the stowaway shall be taken (Front and Profile);


The Master shall confine the stowaway in a lockable room to prevent escape. The place for confinement shall be decided taking the following matters into consideration:

(1) The stowaway shall not be confined in a hospital or dispensary;

(2) The room for confinement shall be locked and additional possible measures against escape through windows shall be considered, like by welding bars.

(3) Stowaways shall be confined separately if possible;

The Master shall provide meals and allow visits to bathroom and shower;

The Master shall organize a 24-hour periodic watch system to prevent escape;

If taken outside the confinement area for exercise or otherwise, stowaways shall be escorted at all times by sufficient crew. (Stowaway should not be put to work)

Arrangement for disembarkation & deportation

The Master shall report all details retrieved during the conversations with the stowaway to the Company and discuss the disembarkation possibilities and any deportation arrangement made for the stowaway.

The P & I representative in the disembarkation port shall be informed. After the completion of the procedures for the disembarkation and deportation of the stowaway, the Master shall in cooperation with the local agent make a final report to the Company.

Documents necessary for procedures for disembarkation and deportation

The Master shall prepare a Statement of Fact mentioning at least the following matters (if known):

Nationality of stowaway;



Port of embarkation

Date and time of discovery;

Place of discovery;

Conditions when discovered;

Food, sanitary facilities, exercise and humanitarian treatment during confinement

Preventive measures that had been taken as per SSP (Ship Security Plan)

Record of port of calls after the discovery, date and time of arrival and departure, date of time of arrival in the disembarkation port, when the stowaway left the vessel under escort and date and time of deportation (from agent).

The Master shall prepare an Agreement of Disembarkation, which states that the stowaway has agreed voluntarily to the disembarkation and deportation, if necessary after consultation with the Company), taking the following matters into consideration :

(1) Countries that require the above-mentioned agreement e.g. Japan and Egypt.

(2) A country where the above-mentioned agreement is likely to disturb the procedures for disembarkation of stowaways e.g. U.S.A., etc.

The Master shall prepare a statement regarding the stowaway based on the interview held onboard which shall be accompanied by a copy of his identification card and photograph.

Documents for P&I insurance settlement

The Master shall prepare the following documents and submit to the Company, since the costs for the disembarkation and deportation of stowaways may be recoverable from the P&I Club It also may be contained any costs for deviation, communication costs, overtime of the crew, cost of meals for stowaways, costs for arrangement of guards of stowaways.

a) Report to authorities;

b) Masters report;

c) Record of Stowaway Searches

d) Copy of crew list;

e) Record of communication costs

f) Detailed statement on incidental expenses

g) Detailed statement of other related expenses.

h) In case of deviation, the full record for date, place, fuel consumed, and wages, stores and provisions used during same ( from commencement to completion)

ISPS implications

The presence of stowaway on board can pose a very serious problem as to suggest a breach or failure of the ISPS Code and entail delays, searches etc when entering subsequent ports.

All security procedures and records as per the SSP (Ship Security Plan) must be maintained diligently to demonstrate to the PSC and Port Security Officers that the ship had done its best to control access to the ship and maintain a proper ship security system.

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