SEA-EYE 4 rescues another 61 people – 2 babies in critical condition

144 people urgently need a safe harbour

After a previous rescue of 84 people on Thursday morning (7 March 2024), the rescue ship SEA-EYE 4 was on its way to Ancona. Since then, two distress calls have interrupted the route to the assigned harbour: While the Italian Coast Guard was able to take over the rescue in the first case, the SEA-EYE 4 rescued 61 people under the most difficult conditions on Friday night. The emergency evacuation of a patient with fuel poisoning took place in the morning hours after a failed attempt at night. The situation on board remains critical, especially for two babies in a fragile condition. In light of these developments, the allocation of a closer safe harbour for the disembarkation of the now total of 144 survivors on board remains urgent.


The SEA-EYE 4 rescued 84 lives on Thursday morning and was on its way to Ancona. The Italian port city, four days away, had previously been assigned to the ship by the Italian authorities as a port for disembarking the 84 rescued people.

On Friday night (8 March 2024), the SEA-EYE 4 received another distress call via Alarmphone, which informed the authorities and the Sea-Eye rescue vessel of a call for help in the Maltese search and rescue zone. Head of Mission Julie Schweickert offered assistance to the Maltese authorities, but received no response. The Italian authorities authorised the SEA-EYE 4 to interrupt its route to Ancona in order to search for the boat in distress. Around midday on Friday (8 March 2024), the SEA-EYE 4 crew managed to find the boat with around 50 people on board. The Italian coastguard arrived at almost the same time, rescued the people and brought them to Lampedusa. The SEA-EYE 4 set course for the harbour of Ancona again. 

A few hours later, the SEA-EYE 4 received another distress call via Alarmphone. It was again a position in the Maltese search and rescue zone. As before, the Maltese rescue coordination centre could not be contacted by the SEA-EYE head of mission Julie Schweickert. With the Italian rescue coordination centre coordinating again and with permission to interrupt the approach to Ancona once more, the SEA-EYE 4 changed course in the opposite direction and the crew began the search. After around 5 hours, the boat was found in difficult conditions.

“There were 61 people in an unseaworthy wooden boat, which was taking on a lot of water due to the waves crashing over it and was in danger of capsizing. The swell made the entire rescue a huge challenge. But our lifeboat team was able to rescue everyone safely,” says Julie Schweickert, Head of Mission on board the SEA-EYE 4.

Following the rescue of 61 people, there are now 144 survivors from two maritime emergencies on board and the safe harbour of Ancona is still 4 days away. The hospital team from German Doctors e.V. and Sea-Eye e.V. is working constantly.

“We had a patient who was in very poor health. He had to be supplied with oxygen and had a body temperature of just 32 degrees. The patient was suffering from fuel poisoning because he must have inhaled too much petrol fumes. During the night, Malta sent a helicopter to evacuate the patient to Malta. However, the evacuation, which took place in difficult weather conditions, was cancelled by the pilot. It was only on Saturday morning that the crew of an Italian helicopter managed to fly the patient out to Italy,” says Dr Gerd Klausen, on-board doctor for German Doctors on board the SEA-EYE 4, adding: “We are very worried about two babies who are still not drinking well. Both are very weak. They are six and twelve months old. One baby has a fever.”

The SEA-EYE 4 resumed its course and its journey to the port of Ancona on Saturday morning (09.03.2024). However, due to several maritime emergencies since Thursday, the ship has not yet come much closer to the port of Ancona.

“84 rescued people, including families with children and babies, have already spent two nights on board. Now 61 more people have joined them. One person has been evacuated. We are now urging Italy to assign us a closer harbour. The weather will change in the next 48 hours. A rescue ship is not the right place to accommodate so many vulnerable people for up to 6 days and nights. We really urgently need the nearest safe harbour to disembark all the survivors,” says Jan Ribbeck, Director of Mission, of the ongoing operation for Sea-Eye e.V.