Mainly, Captain Robson stated that stowaways have been taking serious risks with their own lives and vessels should not underestimate their determination and resourcefulness.

Steamship has been involved in the past with stowaway cases, highlighting the dangers they pose for crewmembers, and also the delays and expenses to be expected when a stowaway is found on a vessel.


In January 2019 a Steamship member reported finding three stowaways on board during a voyage from Lagos to the US.

The ship reported they had exercised Marsec 1 precautions in Lagos, due to the known problems of stowaways in that port, but, despite extensive precautions by the crew, stowaways were found three days after leaving port. When approached by the crew the stowaways were initially aggressive, but notwithstanding this a request to disembark them at Cape Verde was denied by the Cape Verde authorities.

The Master and crew ensured the stowaways were allocated suitable accommodation and food, whilst at the same time ensuring their own safety. As well as their routine duties, the Master and crew had to spend additional time supervising and monitoring the stowaways. With uncertainty about what position the US authorities would take, three guards had to be sent from the UK to the US, causing further cost for the Member, although it transpired that they were not needed.

Additionally Members had to pay for the US Coast Guard security team who boarded the vessel and for five armed guards to be on board. The stowaways were removed and it is believed they claimed asylum.

Their asylum application would take several months to conclude and if it failed, members would have to pay for their repatriation. It was thought the stowaways gained access to the vessel by climbing on to the stern ramp and hiding in its steel framework.

Members have since arranged for razor wire to be placed on the stern ramp and will purchase a small boat to be lowered before departure as part of their departure checks.


A second case, in December 2018, underlined the difficulties that stowaways could pose. Four stowaways were believed to have boarded the Grande Tema in Lagos, but were only found when she was approaching the UK.

It was reported that special forces from the Royal Navy had to be deployed following allegations of an assault on the vessel’s crew. The Navy team boarded the vessel and detained the stowaways.

Captain Roberts noted that in both of these cases the stowaways were allowed to disembark, but that was not always the case.

Many jurisdictions do not allow stowaways to be disembarked, meaning they have to stay on the ship until a suitable disembarkation point can be found.

Generally, the Club commented that its a common phenomenon of African stowaways being found on vessels sailing to South America.

Stowaway repatriation from South America was was taking time and was expensive for the company.

Also, many were the states that did not have direct air links with Africa and so required visa applications for stopover airports.

In the meantime, airlines were sometimes reluctant to take stowaways because of their reputation for causing disruption. Argentina, for example, usually required the plane carrying the stowaways to have taken off before the ship on which they arrived would be allowed to sail.