May 292008

Two communications arrived in MAC’s inbox over the past couple of days with bad news for the families of four now-dead stowaways.

Two bodies were found in a hold aboard the bulk carrier Pascal in Ayr, Scotland. The two men apparently boarded the vessel in Tunisia and hunkered down in a phosphate filled hold with a single bottle of water between them on or around 15th May before the hatches were sealed. Their bodies were discovered on 26th May, eleven days later.

On the day that story broke, Denmark’s Maritime Authority, DMA issued its report on the August 2007 deaths of two stowaways aboard the Danish coaster Danica Brown.

A summary of the DMA report says:

“In August 2007 the Danish coaster DANICA BROWN was loading cottonseed in bulk in Tema Port, Ghana. The stowaways came on board as part of the dock worker team and had id-cards from
the company.

Up to 40 workers were in the hold at the same time. The ship had crewmembers on watch during the loading and additional watchmen from shore were hired. When the hold was fully loaded the ship was searched for stowaways and the entrances to the hold were locked. The cargo was then fumigated with aluminium phosphide by a fumigation company.

“The ship departed and approximately 48 hours after departure noise was heard from the cargo hold. Two stowaways were found and one of them was unconscious. Radio Medical was contacted and first aid using oxygen was given. The stowaway died less than 30 minutes later. The fumigation was for the most part done in accordance with IMO’s Recommendation on the safe use of pesticides. It has not been possible to verify, if warning signs were in place.

“A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) was handed over to the master by the fumigation company. The reference in the MSDS was made to an old version of the MFAG. Poisoning from aluminium phosphide can in some cases be treated by the medicine ATROPIN. It is now under consideration if ATROPIN shall be part of the medicine chest on board Danish ships.”

By and large, dead bodies aren’t what you want on a ship and when it comes to stowaways you don’t want live ones either. In the second case, and possibly the first, the stowaways got aboard carrying apparently valid identity cards.

In these paranoid times it pays to be vigilant in ports in third world countries where there is an increased risk of unwanted passengers.

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