Legal action against Italian Ministry of Transport at the Civil Court of Chieti

The German sea rescue organization Sea-Eye filed a lawsuit on June 30 at the Civil Court of Chieti against the twenty-day administrative detention of the SEA-EYE 4 in Ortona and the associated fine of €3,333.

After the rescue of 49 lives from two different distress calls, the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 was detained by the Italian authorities for 20 days on 02.06.2023. The reason for the detention was a violation of an Italian law that came into force on 24.02.2023. Thus, after the first rescue with 17 rescued persons, the SEA-EYE 4 should have proceeded immediately to Ortona. Due to further distress calls, the ship had to interrupt its approach to Ortona to search for people in distress at sea. The crew of the ship thus saved 32 more lives and still reached the port of Ortona in time.

Italian authorities already used the new law to detain several German rescue vessels after the ships either conducted multiple rescues or called at closer, Italian ports instead of making multi-day approaches to distant seaports. The Sea-Eye organization formally requested assistance from the German Foreign Office on June 04, 2023, because of the SEA-EYE 4’s detention on June 02, 2023. However, an intervention by the German authorities remained unsuccessful. Rome only informed the Foreign Office that the “intervention was noted” wrote a Foreign Office contact person to the Sea-Eye sea rescue organization.

One must realize that this law was explicitly written for sea rescue organizations. It contains penalties that escalate from violation to violation and could bring civilian sea rescue to a complete standstill,” said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V.

The SEA-EYE 4 was unable to carry out its third mission in 2023 as planned due to the detention. The ship is now being prepared for its next mission in Burriana, Spain. If the SEA-EYE 4 is detained a second time for violating the new law, the organization faces a fine of up to €50,000 and a detention of up to six months.

In case of further distress calls, we are thus forced into a moral dilemma. If we carry out a second rescue, we risk the detention of the vessel. If we leave people to die for any reason, we act just like the state actors themselves. However, Sea-Eye will leave no one to die,” Isler continues.