The problem of stowaways hiding in a ship’s rudder stock recess, especially at African ports, still persists, the American Club has warned its members. They are urged to take proper precautions to prevent stowaways from boarding and hiding themselves in this manner. The club first alerted its members to this practice in April 2004.
The cunning stowaways wait in port areas until after dark and then swim to the rudder stock, climb it and hide inside the recess, making it difficult for the ship’s crew to find them. Most of these vessels come from Africa in ballast and, for that reason, the rudder stock recess stays above water. But of course the stowaways are exposed to the sea as the vessel rolls and pitches. The club advises members to take all the necessary measures as part of the Ship Security Plan in accordance with the ISPS Code compliance requirements.
Typically, the crew can only access the rudder trunk via a manhole cover fitted in the aft peak tank. However, if this is not possible during a pre-departure stowaway search, it is recommended that the crew use a small boat, such as a rescue boat or paint raft, to check the recess area. Better still, the club adds, members should 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.