P&I club: Take care that stowaways can't hide in rudder stock recess

The following is an alert from the American P&I Club:


Members may recall that, on April 8, 2001, the Club issued a Member Alert, entitled
Stowaways Hiding In Rudder Stock Recess, which drew attention to the problem
specified in the title of the alert. This problem, it would seem, persists. This alert is to
remind Members to take proper precautions in order to prevent stowaways from
boarding and hiding themselves in this manner.

Our information indicates that, as previously advised, stowaways wait in port areas until
after dark and then swim to the rudder stock, climbing it and hiding inside the recess.
Having gained access to an external area of the vessel, they cannot then be easily
found by the ship’s crew.

It has been observed that most of these vessels come from Africa in ballast and, for that
reason, the rudder stock recess stays above water. However, as the vessel rolls and
pitches, the stowaways are exposed to the sea.

Members are advised to take all necessary measures as part of the Ship Security Plan
(SSP) in accordance with the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code
compliance requirements.

The ship’s crew should make all efforts to check that stowaways are not hiding in the
rudder stock recess, particularly when loading or discharging cargo at ports or terminals
in Africa. In general, it is the crew’s first priority to check for stowaways onboard ship.
However, attention should also be paid to ensure that no stowaways have accessed the
rudder stock recess.

Typically, the crew can only access the rudder trunk via a manhole cover fitted in the aft
peak tank. Since this tank is normally in ballast and/or filled with freshwater,
examination of the rudder stock during a pre-departure stowaway search is not always
practical. If access to the rudder stock recess cannot be gained via the aft peak tank, it
is recommended that the crew use a small boat, such as a small rescue boat or paint
raft, to check for stowaways in the rudder stock recess area.

It is also recommended that Members consider installing medial gratings above the
openings to the rudder compartment to prevent stowaways from gaining access to the
recess area in the first place.

By Professional Mariner Staff