IMO designates Stowaway Focal Point (SFP) to assist masters in the resolution of stowaway problems

At the March meeting of the IMO Facilitation Committee, a joint paper submitted by INTERCARGO / INTERTANKO formed the basis of a decision to designate an IMO “Stowaway Focal Point" (SFP) to assist masters in the resolution of stowaway problems when conventional resolution techniques prove unsuccessful.


With immediate effect, a trial period has been initiated whereby masters can both report statistical stowaway returns and also seek assistance on a Government to Government basis.


To ensure the continuing availability of this valuable facility, separate publicity will be issued in due course, but members may wish to circulate and retain the information set out here, which covers the steps to be taken in the event of the discovery of stowaway:


·         Immediate assistance

·         Informing people and getting help

·         Investigating the stowaway – a stowaway report form (a.871) (including pieces of information that should be collected as per the IMO Resolution A.871 (20) dated 27 November 1997):

1. ship details

2. stowaway details - timeline

3. stowaway details – personal details

4. stowaway details – identification documents

5. stowaway details : personal characteristics

·         Stowaway Focal Point (SFP) : If P&I / Company / Flag cannot resolve

·         Terms of reference for the SFP trial (abridged)

·         Contacting the IMO SFP

·         Other sources of information


Migrants and refugees


There are important distinctions between stowaways and other persons who may find themselves being taken aboard a ship.


The IMO defines stowaways in Section 1A of the Facilitation (FAL) Convention as:


“Stowaway means 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.”


However, there are other categories of persons which may equally find their way on board a vessel such as survivors of rescue operations, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.


To assist masters and others to understand the complex legal frameworks (UNCLOS, the Search and Rescue Convention and SOLAS requiring masters to render assistance, together with commensurate responsibilities of Governments to accept them), the IMO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have produced a leaflet called “Rescue at Sea”.


Contact: John Boreman