No Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Assumes Responsibility
After the rescue of 133 people last Saturday (9/19/2020), no European maritime rescue coordination centre took over the coordinating role for the people rescued by the ALAN KURDI till Tuesday evening. Malta’s rescue coordination centre flat-out refused. The Italian rescue coordination centre referred to the German control centre in Bremen and from there the requests were forwarded to the German Ministry of Transport and the German Foreign Office.
On Tuesday morning, the Italian coast guard evacuated two women, one man, five children, the youngest child being only five months old. The communication for this evacuation took place exclusively verbally, via radio. Jan Ribbeck, head of operations and board member of Sea-Eye, criticizes the actions of the Italian and German authorities. On Tuesday evening, he wrote to the rescue coordination centre in Rome:
“The responsible JRCC in the Libyan SAR zone has not made contact with the vessel ALAN KURDI via email, VHF or telephone before or after the rescue. All the other authorities closest to the SAR zone have so far not agreed on a jurisdiction or responsibility despite repeated attempts and objections. The common duty to coordinate emergencies at sea does not end in silence and inactivity of the authorities. It continues to apply until the operation is completed with the transfer of the rescued people to a safe port. Due to the inactivity of the Italian and German authorities the master must now consequently head for our port of call for the fastest possible and safe supply and evacuation of the rescued people. But in order to avoid a long and stressfull crossing, we must request for an immediate disembarkation for all of rescued people within the next hours.“
Rescue ship ALAN KURDI sets course for France
„If the rescue coordination centre in Tripoli is incapacitated and cannot assume its responsibility, all other European maritime rescue coordination centres are responsible and obliged to cooperate, because after all, human lives are at stake,“ says Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.
On Tuesday evening, the civil sea rescue organization informed the maritime rescue coordination centres of Italy, Malta, Germany and France, as well as the German Foreign Office, of their intentions and repeated their request for a safe port. However, none of them replied.
Therefore, the ALAN KURDI set course for her port of call, its original port of destination, where the ship was scheduled to dock in order to carry out the crew change and prepare for its next mission. The French port of Marseille was also chosen because the organization’s volunteers can travel there more easily from Germany and it has already served as a suitable base for the rescue ship OCEAN VIKING.
“Of course, the port of call can also be a place of safety. The inaction of the Italian and German authorities forces us to take this step,” Isler continues.
The choice of a more distant port is nothing new. Starting in 1979, Rupert Neudeck of Cap Anamur brought over 10,000 Vietnamese refugees, the so-called “boat people”, to safety this way.
Another blockade off Italy unacceptable
Most recently, the Italian authorities had blocked the Spanish rescue ship OPEN ARMS off Sicily until dozens of people jumped off board in desperation, trying to swim ashore themselves.
“This is the kind of uncontrollable situation we don’t want to be brought into. We will not accept another blockade,” says Isler.
After consultation with the nautical crew, Isler considers the risks of the journey to be justifiable.
“As we will pass many ports off Sardinia, off Corsica and off the south of France, we will be able to ask for support everywhere,” so Isler.
Recently, the French government has regularly been involved in the distribution of people rescued from distress at sea.
“We do not know how the French government will react to our request for assistance. But we believe in the support of the French people and that they won’t let the ALAN KURDI be stranded off Marseille,” Isler continues.