Ocean Viking ship has been stranded in Italy since July 22nd since it disembarked 181 rescued refugees at Sicily.
The NGO refugee ship was ultimately granted the order to leave Sicily by the Italian coast guard after long and tenacious detention of 5 months.
The ship was detained by Italian authorities in suspicion of not meeting safety standards on July 22nd, this year. Prior to that the ship rescued and brought 180 migrants to Sicily.
Granted Sailing Permit After Inspection
The process of obtaining this permit was a laborious procedure that involved months of negotiations after which the Italian coastguard granted the order upon thorough inspection of the Ocean Viking ship
A statement released by SOS Mediterranee
“On December 21, following a third inspection in five months by the Italian coast guard, the Ocean Viking was deemed compliant with the interpretation of ships’ safety regulations by the Italian authorities and the detention of the ship was lifted.”
According to the Director of Operations for SOS Mediterranee, the European charity who owns the ship, Frederic Penard said that their teams worked day and night for 5 months to obtain the permission while hundreds died at sea.
“Today marks the end of a lengthy, costly and difficult race against time,” said Penard.
The ship had to enhance its safety features by installing 8 more large life rafts, more jackets and immersion suits while it remained docked at the Augusta Port in Sicily.
Rescue Ships Not Safe?
Penard said that the Italian government no longer considers NGO rescue ships to be safe and this is preventing the rescue of seafarers.
“European States did not replace us to rescue people in distress in the meantime. We are deeply thankful for the tremendous support we receive from European citizens who do not give up and stay committed to the principle of humanity on shore and at sea, despite the obstacles search and rescue NGOs constantly have to overcome. We need you to continue to save lives next year”, said Penard
The ship will be setting sail for Marseille France as it needs to restock and add new personnels to the existing medical and rescue team onboard the ship. Before starting the journey the crew will observe 10 days of quarantine protocol.
Administrative Harassment of Rescue Ships
The charities allege that the Italian administration has been deliberately blocking rescue vessels and harassing them of noncompliance in the past few months and they have deemed this as an “administrative harassment”.
- An estimated 316 people have drowned in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea says the International Organisation for Migration.
- According to an IOM estimate, Libyan coastguard has returned more than 11800 people this year as war torn Libya isn’t safe for refugees.
- Meanwhile similar rescue ships like the Ocean Viking still remain stranded at the shore. Ships like Mare Junio, Louise Michel, Sea Watch 3 and Sea Watch 4 have been put under restriction barring them from returning to sea.
Rescue Ships Returning To Sea
- An Open Arms’ Ship by a Spanish charity called the Open Arms will be returning to the Mediterranean in the next few days.
- Another charity ship by Basque Charity Humanitarian Maritime Rescue will return to the Mediterranean in the next month.