Three stowaways traveled at the helm of a ship that arrived in Spain

The Maltese-flagged ship left Lagos, Nigeria on 17 November.

The Spanish Maritime Rescue Service says that three stowaways have been found at the helm of a ship in the Canary Islands after an 11-day cruise from Nigeria.

Salvamento Maritimo said that the men found on board the oil tanker Aletheni 2 in the Spanish port of Las Palmas showed symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were taken to hospitals on the island to receive medical care.

The Spanish government delegation to the Canary Islands told the Associated Press that the survivors were from Nigeria. One of them is still hospitalized on Tuesday.

The agency published a picture of three men sitting at the helm under the huge hull of the ship, their feet inches above the water.

The Maltese-flagged ship left Lagos, Nigeria, on November 17 and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday, according to ship-watching website MarineTraffic. The distance is about 4,600 kilometers.

Others have previously been caught clinging to the rudders as they risk their lives to reach the Spanish islands off northwest Africa.

Maritime Rescue has dealt with six similar cases in the past two years, according to Sofia Hernandez, who heads the service’s coordination center in Las Palmas.

Migrants can seek refuge inside the boxy hull that surrounds the helm, Hernandez explained, but remain vulnerable to bad weather and rough seas. “It’s very dangerous,” he told the Associated Press.

The fluctuation of a ship’s draft level—the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull—presents another hazard for these stowaways. Levels vary depending on the weight of the cargo on board.

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“We’re talking about the fact that it (might be) a difference of several metres. That part could be completely submerged in water,” Hernandez commented.

In 2020, a 14-year-old Nigerian boy was interviewed by the Spanish newspaper El País after he survived a two-week voyage at the helm of a ship. I also sailed from Lagos.

“It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last,” tweeted Txima Santana, journalist and immigration advisor for the Canary Islands’ regional government.

In such cases, the shipowner is generally responsible for returning the stowaways to their point of departure, according to a Spanish government delegation that was in the Canary Islands.

Thousands of migrants and refugees from North and West Africa have arrived intermittently in the Canary Islands in recent years.

Most of them begin the dangerous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in overloaded ships departing from the coasts of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and even Senegal.

More than 11,600 people have arrived on the Spanish islands this year, according to figures from the Spanish Interior Ministry.

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