May 22, 2024

The suspects said they thought the vessel was going to Europe and decided to follow it out of the country in search of greener pastures

At least 11 stowaways onboard a Guangzhou Highway Panama vessel heading to Ghana from Nigeria have been arrested, the Nigerian navy confirmed on Wednesday.

The suspects said they thought the vessel was going to Europe and decided to follow it out of the country in search of greener pastures.

Nigerian navy chief Lieutenant commander Ayobami Tunde-Alli said the stowaways were arrested by a patrol team on Tuesday, an official statement said.

Handing them over to the Nigerian Immigration Service in Apapa on Thursday, Tunde-Alli said, “In a display of exceptional vigilance, the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft patrol team, while on routine patrol, successfully intercepted and apprehended some individuals on Tuesday (17 October), around 7pm at obscured spaces of the stern gate onboard Guangzhou Highway Panama, which was en route Ghana.”

“Accordingly, Western Regional Control Centre was immediately informed and prompted the vessel to halt within Lagos anchorage.

“Initially, four stowaways were apprehended from the stern of the vessel. However, information provided by these individuals revealed the presence of additional stowaways inside the ship,” the navy boss added.

The situation in Africa

Norway-based marine insurer and International Group Club, Gard, has listed Lagos ports and others in the continent as hot spots for stowaway embarkations, though with a relative decrease in the incidents.

According to the report, which also reviewed the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGP&I) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Global Integrated Shipping System (GISIS) data for the period 2013 to 2022, West African ports such as Lagos, Conakry, Dakar and Durban must still be treated as ports with a high risk of stowaways despite the decline.

The IMO GISIS data also revealed the top five countries of stowaway embarkation from 2018 to 2022 to include, Nigeria with 14 per cent, Morocco (13 per cent), Guinea (12 per cent), Tunisia (eight per cent), Senegal (seven per cent) and the rest of Africa (46 per cent).

The report also disclosed that many North African countries have become major transit points for African and Arab migrants trying to reach Europe to escape war and poverty.

It stated that there is a clear upward trend in the number of incidents reported from the Maghreb region of North Africa, particularly from the port of Casablanca in Morocco and Rades/Tunis in Tunisia.

The report noted that the total number of stowaways involved has also decreased, but not at the same rate as the incident figures.

According to the report, this means that the number of stowaways per incident has been growing and the data will seem to suggest that the current average is close to three stowaways per incident.

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