On November 17, the Alithini II oil tanker made its slow departure from a port in Lagos, Nigeria, beginning a nearly 3,000-mile journey to the Canary Islands. Eleven long days later, the colossal ship arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, safely delivering its crew and cargo to their sub-tropical destination.
As the oil tanker pulled into port, however, crews noticed something unusual on the enormous rudder. Looking closer, they realized the ship had carried three stowaways through the Gulf of Guinea, around the westernmost coast of Africa, and all the way up to the Spanish isles.
Their feet dangling mere inches from the water below, the three men had somehow survived the 2,800-mile voyage. All three, however, required immediate medical attention.
Following the discovery of the stowaways, the Spanish Coast Guard posted an image of the shocking scene at the ship’s hull. If you look closely, you can see three men perched atop the rudder. “[Maritime] Rescue rescued three stowaways in the Las Palmas port after surviving eleven days at the help of an oil tanker,” the post reads. “They left Nigeria and all three have been hospitalized with moderate dehydration.”
Salvamento ha rescatado en el puerto de Las Palmas a tres polizones tras sobrevivir a once días de navegación sobre el timón de un petrolero.— EFE Canarias (@EFE_Canarias) November 28, 2022
Habían partido de Nigeria y los tres han sido hospitalizados con deshidratación moderada.
📸 Salvamento Marítimo
Head of Rescue Agency Details Dangers Faced by Ship Stowaways
The three stowaways on the fuel-carrying ship were incredibly fortunate to arrive with only hypothermia and dehydration. Many who attempt the same perilous journey aren’t nearly as lucky. Txema Santana, a journalist and migration adviser in the Canary Islands, tweeted: “It is not the first and it will not be the last. Stowaways do not always have the same luck.”
Following their rescue from the rudder, the men explained that they ran out of food after three days. They traveled the remaining eight with no food, fresh water, or protection from the elements. It’s possible for stowaways to seek cover inside the structure surrounding the rudder. However, there’s no guarantee of safety, especially in the event of bad weather and rough seas.
When the ship arrived at its destination, the three stowaways seemed relatively safe, all three more than far enough from the rippling water to stay dry. Out at sea, however, this isn’t always the case. The distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull fluctuates as it travels. Because of this, the men were likely submerged at points in the journey.
“We are talking about several meters difference,” Salvamento Marítimo head Sofía Hernández explained to AP. “This part could have been perfectly submerged in the water. It is very dangerous.”
Despite the life-threatening dangers they face on the journey, migrants and refugees aren’t at all uncommon. According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, more than 11,600 people have reached the Spanish isles by boat this year alone.