Hapag-Lloyd container ship BERLIN EXPRESS receives no assistance from Malta
On Friday evening (06.05.2022), the organization Alarm Phone reported a distress call in international waters north of Benghazi. The container ship BERLIN EXPRESS of Hamburg-based shipping line Hapag-Lloyd was the first ship at the scene and found a small, overcrowded wooden boat with 34 people. The incident occurred in the Maltese search and rescue zone. However, the Maltese rescue coordination center repeatedly violated its coordination duties and referred to the responsibility of the flag state. The BERLIN EXPRESS sails under German flag and has its home port in Hamburg.
Due to the weather and in particular the height of the freeboard, the Hamburg container ship was unable to rescue the people directly without further endangering their lives. The crew of the BERLIN EXPRESS provided the people seeking protection with food as well as drinking water, launched a life raft and stayed with the 34 people until they were rescued. A Hapag-Lloyd employee told Sea-Eye that one crew member was injured in the process. After returning and receiving treatment on the BERLIN EXPRESS, the crew member is doing well.
German authorities contacted Sea-Eye’s head of mission on Saturday morning to seek solutions to the difficult situation. The SEA-EYE 4 was 40 hours away from the case at the time.
On Saturday afternoon, the German rescue control center MRCC Bremen contacted the SEA-EYE 4 and asked to provide assistance to the BERLIN EXPRESS. The SEA-EYE 4 therefore left its operational area east of Tripoli and set course for the position of the BERLIN EXPRESS.
Several cargo vessels reached the BERLIN EXPRESS before the SEA-EYE 4, including the BSG BAHAMAS, which is managed by the Hamburg-based CPO Containerschiffreederei GmbH & Co. KG. Sunday at noon, the crew of the BSG BAHAMAS finally succeeded in rescuing the 34 people and evacuating them to the BSG BAHAMAS. At this point, the people had already been at sea for four nights.
“The BSG Bahamas, which we manage, was requested by MRCC Bremen to participate in the rescue of 34 people while en route from Alexandria to Tangier Med, west of Malta. Our vessel reached the position after dark, with 7.20m freeboard and 2m swell the immediate rescue was deemed too dangerous for those to be rescued. After sunrise, our captain, with full support from the shipping company and close cooperation with the MRCC Bremen, decided to take the people on board with his crew and provide them with care. Except for two obviously seasick persons, they are doing well so far according to our knowledge. We thank our captain and his crew for their excellent seamanship, a prerequisite for the successful execution of such a rescue operation,” said Ortwin Mühr, spokesman for CPO Containerschiffreederei GmbH & Co. KG from Hamburg.
The BERLIN EXPRESS was then able to continue its voyage.
“Our captain and his crew did an outstanding job and there was no question from the first minute that we would help the people in distress as best we could,” said Silke Muschitz, Head of Fleet Management at Hapag-Lloyd. “We would like to express our sincere thanks for the good support we received from Sea-Eye. Our captains were in constant exchange and the situation showed us once again how important good cooperation is when rescuing people in distress at sea,” Muschitz added.
Late Sunday afternoon, the SEA-EYE 4 encountered the BSG BAHAMAS. After the captain of the container ship asked the SEA-EYE 4 to take over the rescued persons, the joint medical team of Sea-Eye and German Doctors visited the BSG BAHAMAS to assess the situation. Both captains agreed that the 34 rescued people could be better cared for and medically treated on the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 than on a container ship. Therefore, the SEA-EYE 4 took over all 34 rescued people early Sunday evening. The SEA-EYE 4 has a trained medical team, an on-board hospital, enough provisions and sleeping places for the 34 completely exhausted survivors, who have now had to hold out at sea for around four days.
“Without the crews of the BERLIN EXPRESS and the BSG BAHAMAS, the people would have had no chance to survive. They would have died of thirst or drowned,” said Gorden Isler, chairman of Sea-Eye e. V. “It should not have come that far. The distress case finally occurred in the Maltese search and rescue zone. Once again, Malta refused responsibility and coordination, so the German rescue coordination center in Bremen was forced to coordinate a distress call in the Mediterranean.”