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12 Stowaways Attempt to Reach San Juan by Barge

Boat crew intercepts and detains stowaways
Courtesy USCG

Published Nov 26, 2023 6:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Border Patrol rescued 12 stowaways who had boarded a barge at San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

At 0830 on Saturday, Sector San Juan received a call from the crew of the tug Sarah Dann, which was towing a barge into the harbor. The crew reported a possible stowaway sighting aboard their barge tow. 

Sector San Juan dispatched a small boat with a boarding team, and they found nine stowaways aboard the barge, including one individual who was unresponsive. 

The team also found that three more stowaways had jumped overboard as the barge approached the harbor entrance. Coast Guard boat crews launched a search for the men in the water, with assistance from the Puerto Rico Joint Forces marine unit. 

U.S. Border Patrol shore teams caught two of the stowaways on the beach, and the last missing individual was found in the water by a Coast Guard patrol boat. 

The nine men from the raft were taken ashore to Coast Guard Base San Juan, where Customs and Border Protection took them into custody. The unresponsive individual was transferred to a local hospital. 

“I cannot emphasize enough just how dangerous it is to have stowaways board or jump from a moving barge,” said Capt. Robert M. Pirone, Sector San Juan acting commander.  “The quick response and close collaboration of all responding Coast Guard and partner agency units prevented a tragic outcome and accounted for the safety of all the stowaways in this case.”

The service has been busy this season intercepting irregular migrants in the Mona Passage, the waterway between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. During October alone, the Coast Guard found and stopped nine separate maritime migrant voyages in the area and captured 206 illegal migrants, the overwhelming majority from the Dominican Republic.