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Mediterranean Sea; Refugee & migrant crisis PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 13:07



Applicability: Shipowners and Technical managers

Members will be aware of recent news reporting in respect of the continued
movement of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean Sea. As the weather
improves in the region, it is expected that there will be another large movement in
2015, possibly exceeding that of 2014.

The situation:

In the year past an estimated 200,000 ( and possible more) people sought to reach


Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Typically this voyage is under taken in
small craft, heavily over loaded, and over all unsuitable for such a passage. Many are
feared to have perished in the attempt. There were also attempts made with the use
of larger commercial vessels sent on auto pilot towards Italy. Skuld vessels were
involved in many rescues and are estimated to have taken on board several thousand
people during 2014.
The reasons for this movement of people, unprecedented in Europe since World War
II, are many, but can be traced back to conflicts and economic issues in large areas
of Africa and the Middle East, particularly the situation in Syria and Libya have
contributed to the present state of affairs. It is estimated that over the winter months
several hundred thousand people have massed in Libya and are now preparing to
make the passage to Europe as the weather improves.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, over 13,500 people were
rescued in the period of 10 April to 17 April 2015, and 900 are feared to have perished
this year ( not including those who may have died over the weekend) .
Over the weekend a further significant incident occurred, which may have resulted in
several hundred deaths. Skuld vessels were among those asked by the authorities to
assist in the Search and Rescue (SAR) operation.
At present the outlook is that for the rest of year there will be a continued movement
of people across the Mediterranean.
Members with vessels trading in this area, or passing through it, will need to be
prepared for the significant likelihood that they will come across such people or will be
asked by regional or local authorities to assist in SAR operations.
Reminder: subject to primary concerns of the safety of the crew and vessel, masters
need to be fully aware of their obligations under international convention and local
laws to assist distressed persons at sea. A failure to render assistance may create
legal, including criminal, liabilities.

Emergency response:

If a vessel comes across distressed persons at sea, then it is an obligation with the
force of law that assistance must be rendered ( subject to the safety of the crew and
vessel rendering the assistance) .
There are many considerations to keep in mind when this situation arises, and
masters should take the following steps amongst the other necessary measures to
respond to the situation in a safe and responsible manner :
1. identify the likely number of vessels and people being encountered
2. urgently contact the nearest responsible maritime authority / coast guard of the situation
3. assess how assistance can be safely rendered
4. provide such assistance and rescue as can be safely provided

Movement of people

5. call for additional help and support as may be required
6. identify if any rescued persons are in need of urgent medical attention
7. keep in constant contact with the maritime authority / coast guard responding to the incident
8. inform concerned parties, including managers, charterers, as well as the club of the situation soonest
9. keep a very careful photographic, video and written record of the entire event
10. contact the Skuld correspondent in the country / port to which rescued persons are to be taken
Should a vessel encounter a situation that it cannot respond to, at least not without
further assistance, or should an emergency arise, then the master should prioritise the
safety of human life and make an urgent call for further help as he considers

If a vessel is contacted by a maritime authority or a coast guard to come to a SAR
operation, then it should follow the instructions and adopt the above as appropriate in
the light of developing circumstances.

Preparedness advice:

It is now a significant likelihood that if vessels trade to / from ports in the
Mediterranean, especially in the central area, or pass through this region, that they will
encounter distressed persons at sea or be asked to assist in a SAR operation. While
commercial vessels are not designed or intended to engage in large scale rescue
operations at sea, the present facts are that this is a role which they are being asked
to perform and to which they have to respond as best as they can in the
Vessels should seek to prepare for this eventuality and that includes preparation with
respect to training and briefing of crew, as well as having stores on board that can be
used in the eventuality of such a situation.
It would be prudent for crews to be briefed on the situation in advance of entering the
Mediterranean and for procedures to be discussed and implemented for the
eventuality that this type of situation will be encountered. Crew that have been pre­
advised and briefed are likely to respond more effectively and as such are likely to be
able to do so in a more effective and safe manner.

Having on board stores of bottled water, first aid kits, ready food and blankets may
also assist when the time comes to respond. While this means increased cost when
supplying the vessel, the present situation would counsel that such is prudent
preparation for a significant likelihood of having to meet the demands of an emergency
response in this part of the world.
It would also be prudent to consider addressing this situation in advance when
agreeing to charter parties that would see the vessel be in the areas where the is an
increased chance of having to respond to distressed persons at sea. That includes
addressing the possible cost and time issues that may follow should a vessel actually
have to engage in a SAR operation.

Skuld and other resources:

Skuld has advised throughout 2014 on this situation, and provided access to further

resources and materials which members will find helpful when engaging in risk
management and preparedness operations, as well as guidance for dealing with a real
life situation.
For vessel specific enquiries, members are asked to contact their usual Skuld
business unit.

For more information about Loss Prevention at Skuld please visit Skuld Loss Prevention