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Prevention of Access by Stowaways by Sea

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Prevention of Access by Stowaways by Sea 02.05.2023 12:42

The IMO FAL Convention defines a stowaway as: “a person who is secreted on a ship, or in cargo which is subsequently loaded on the ship, without the consent of the shipowner or the Master or any other responsible person and who is detected on board the ship after it has departed from a port, or in the cargo while unloading it in the port of arrival, and is reported as a stowaway by the Master to the appropriate authorities”

Stowaways seem to be an ever-present problem for the shipping industry. Migrants in search of a better life continue to risk their lives by ‘stowing away’ on board private and commercial ships. Unnoticed by master, crews, port and customs authorities, stowaways may gain access to ships with or without the assistance of port personnel.

This guidance is intended to assist shipowners and crews in avoiding some of the common pitfalls and problems related to stowaways. It shares some of the important lessons we have learned over the years in terms of handling stowaways, including measures that can prevent stowaways from accessing the ship, what to do if stowaways are found onboard, and some of the insurance implications.

The FAL Convention is kept continually amended and updated and new standards and recommended practices for dealing with stowaways have been added over the years. Recommended practices on preventive measures have also been revised to make sure they do not duplicate the existing provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code but rather augment and supplement them in the context of preventing stowaways.


In 2018 the IMO adopted Resolution FAL.13 (42) on “Revised guidelines on the prevention of access by stowaways and the allocation of responsibilities to seek the successful resolution of stowaway cases”. The guidelines provide more clarity on the complex issue of stowaways and is considered particularly useful for those countries that have not signed the FAL Convention or find it impracticable to comply with its recommended practices. The guidelines’ approach on how to prevent stowaway incidents is also aligned with the security approach of the ISPS Code.


Risk assessment is a systematic procedure for measuring and managing the likelihood that the harm from a particular threat, such as stowaways, will occur. It is an integral part of voyage planning within a safety management system and an important first step to identify potential threats for which appropriate preventive measures must be implemented.


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