Puerto Rico-Caution for Increased Stowaway Activity

10 May 2023 No.1223

We have received the information below from our local correspondent, Jiménez, Graffam & Lausell.


Stowaway activity is increasing in the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico trade, especially in vessels carrying cargo in bulk. US Immigration authorities usually process stowaways from the Dominican Republic rather expeditiously, sometimes achieving repatriation within 24hours or less from taking them into custody.


In stowaway cases, owners and operators must bear associated costs for repatriation and caretaking costs. Regarding the peculiarity of Puerto Rico, it is a US jurisdiction and US authorities may assess penalties of USD6,215.00 per stowaway that are imposed to fail of stowaways from landing on US soil. In addition to that, it is reported that penalties for unlawful stowaway landing are imposed on owners of a tugboat company engaged in the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico Trade.


To defend against stowaway-related penalties, owners and vessel operators must be prepared to show that they acted with the highest degree of care under the circumstances by taking preventive measures, such as follows;


  • Ensuring that departing port authorities conduct pre-sailing inspections with the issuance of inspection certificates if available
  • Vessels have an active security plan at the port of origin and regularly conduct onboard security searches with trained crewmembers, especially before departure and arrival to Puerto Rico
  • Boarding procedures must be strictly complied with and always documented


If you have any plans to call Puerto Rico, please be cautious to this point.