Stowaways Found on Tanker’s Rudder After Making 2700 NM Trip

Three stowaways sitting on top of the tanker's rudder awaiting rescue (Salvamento Maritimo)

Published Nov 29, 2022 9:56 AM by The Maritime Executive

Three stowaways were found sitting on the top of a tanker’s rudder when the vessel arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands on Monday. They were taken to a local hospital while the local migrant services are highlighting it was not the first case of this type with migrants continuing to attempt perilous journeys.

Spain’s maritime rescue service, Salvamento Maritimo, reports that the migrants who were believed to be Nigerians were discovered aboard a tanker that arrived at Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands off northwestern Africa. The 51,000 dwt tanker Alithini II was completing an approximately 2,700 nautical mile trip that had begun on November 17 in Lagos, Nigeria. The tanker, which is registered in Malta, had been at sea for 11 days.

The agency’s patrol boat Salvamar Nunki was reportedly making a routine sweep when the crew spotted the three migrants sitting on the top edge of the rudder. Reports indicate that the three men were less than two feet above the water.

They were given emergency medical attention on the pier and according to local media reports appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia. They were sent to two local hospitals for treatment.

Organizations focusing on the migrant crisis in Europe highlight that this is an ongoing situation with thousands of people fleeing from northern and western Africa, however, most of them are attempting to cross the Mediterranean. However, others are attempting the Atlantic crossing from western Africa to the Canary Islands. Spain’s Interior Ministry calculates that nearly 12,000 people have reached the islands in 2022 mostly in small boats.

Migration advisor to the government of the Canary Islands, Txema Santana, retweeted the picture released by the authorities writing, “The survival odyssey is far beyond fiction. It is not the first and it will not be the last. Stowaways do not always have the same luck.”

The media in the Canary Islands is reporting at least two other recent stowaway cases also involving stowaways found aboard commercial vessels arriving from Lagos. In October 2020, they report three migrants were also found on the rudder of another tanker arriving in the islands. A month before that, the Spanish authorities discovered four more migrants atop the rudder of a Norwegian tanker when it arrived in Las Palmas for a bunker stop. Reports indicated that they had hidden in the steering gear room above the rudder during the 10-day trip. Spain provided medical treatment but ordered the tanker to keep the stowaway, who were finally handed over to the Norwegian authorities when the vessel reached its destination.

Santana told the Associated Press that in most cases the migrants are sent back at the cost of the shipping company.