Search and Rescue Operations in the Mediterranean
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.
Summer is once again upon us and the media coverage surrounding the refugee and migrant crisis in the Mediterranean continues, as do the criticisms of Operation Triton. So has anything really changed since Triton was introduced or do commercial operators still have to step in?
Launched on 1 November 2014, the EU's Frontex Operation Triton has been a controversial replacement for its predecessor, the Italian Mare Nostrum programme. Unlike Mare Nostrum, Triton does not focus on 'search and rescue' (SAR) missions but focuses its efforts on 'border management'. This means that the area for which government-led rescue efforts are responsible has been significantly reduced, and some have feared that this has led to an increase in casualties.
A direct consequence of this change, and the associated media coverage, has been an increase in non-governmental rescue organisations such as the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and Sea Watch. Whilst the increase in NGOs tries to fill the gap left by Mare Nostrum, commercial ship operators are still often required to intervene. This may be made worse by the proposed EU NGO Code of Conduct, which may not allow NGOs access to Italian Ports unless they sign up. Concerns over the wording and impact of this has been raised by organisations such as Human Rights at Sea.
There are also potential problems the horizon with the Defend Europe movement, a right-wing group, who may try to stop the work of NGO vessels - which could place additional pressure on the commercial operators.
What obligations does the Member have?
Members have an obligation to provide prompt assistance to any person "found at sea in danger of being lost" and to do so promptly. The only caveat to this being, if providing said assistance would cause serious danger to the ship and her crew. Failing to comply with these obligations, could result in a fine and imprisonment.
Once onboard the ship, the rescued persons must also be provided with food, water and shelter until they can be landed.
The Club's Refugees at Sea information page contains further detailed information and resources.
You may also be interested in:
In February, a shipwreck off Calabria, Italy, claimed at least 72 lives, adding to the tragic toll of people who perished in the sea whilst taking dangerous journeys to Europe
MEPC 79 - A Summary
THE IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) responsible for matters concerning the prevention and control of pollution from ships, held its 79th session (MEPC 79) in London from 12-16 December 2022
Press Release: UK P&I Club announces William Beveridge as its new Chief Underwriting Officer
The UK P&I Club, one of the leading providers of P&I insurance and other services to the international shipping community, has appointed William Beveridge as its new Chief Underwriting Officer. He joins the UK Club on completion of his current employment obligations.
On 23 December 2022, the US Coast Guard issued a Final Rule in the Federal Register to adjust the limits of liability for vessels, deep-water ports and onshore facilities under its Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90), as amended, to reflect the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since they were last adjusted in 2019.