The Ocean Viking underway to Marseille

2019 – The year in photos

2019 is coming to an end. It has been a year with numerous waves and challenging situations, but also a year with a good tail wind and strong anchors. A lot has happened since we were forced to end the chartering contract of the Aquarius at the end of last year. Giving up the Aquarius was an extremely difficult and painful decision but it allowed us to search for a new vessel and resume operations as quickly as possible.

Thanks to the loyal support of thousands of citizens and the incessant efforts of all teams ashore, SOS MEDITERRANEE was able to charter the Ocean Viking, an even more robust and efficient vessel. Between 9 August and 21 December 2019, it provided assistance to 1,373 people in distress.

Today we look back at the moments that marked this year and wish you all a happy 2020!


January 1st. Port of Marseille, France. Farewell to the Aquarius and her crew.

Photo by Sabine Grenard/SOS MEDITERRANEE

December 2018 – April 2018. The SOS MEDITERRANEE teams look for a new ship in order to resume their lifesaving mission

April 8th. The Ocean Viking, under Norwegian flag, will be the successor to the Aquarius.
She has served as a supply and rescue vessel for the oil and gas industry in the North Sea. Built in 1986, she is 69.3m long and 15.5m wide.

The Ocean Viking underway to Marseille

Photo by Anthony Jean/SOS MEDITERRANEE

May to July. During seven weeks in a shipyard in Szczecin, Poland, the Ocean Viking is transformed into a real rescue vessel. SOS MEDITERRANEE and MSF install a set of containers on the large open aft deck to be able to provide shelter and care for the survivors.

Installation of containers on the Ocean Viking

Photo by Emilien Bernard/SOS MEDITERRANEE

July 21st. #BackAtSea
Announcement of the return to sea of SOS MEDITERRANEE rescuers onboard the Ocean Viking seven months after the Aquarius ceased operations. The ship is heading to Marseille for a stopover before its first mission.

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August 9th. First rescue of the Ocean Viking.
11 months after the last rescue by the teams onboard the Aquarius, 85 people are brought to safety, including 6 women and 25 children.

Photo by Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF

August 23rd. 13 days of standoff.
The Ocean Viking has to wait for 13 days after its first rescue on August 9th before being allowed to disembark a total of 355 survivors. The survivors are eventually transferred to a Maltese military vessel on August 23rd.

Photo by Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF

September 14th. The Ocean Viking is the first humanitarian vessel in 14 months to disembark survivors in Italy.
The Ocean Viking is instructed to disembark 82 survivors in Lampedusa. A transfer to an Italian Coast Guard vessel is done in territorial waters off the island.

Photo by Alessandro Serrano/MSF

October 30th. Another standoff.
After the rescue of 104 survivors on October 18th, the Ocean Viking once again remains in limbo for more than ten days.

Photo by Julia Schaefermeyer/SOS MEDITERRANEE

November 22nd. A dedication to the Ocean Viking.
A woman in the late stages of her pregnancy with twins and a man with gunshot wounds are evacuated to Malta by helicopter. The woman announced she wanted to name her twins Ocean and Viking to honor the ship that saved their lives.

Photo by Hannah Wallace Bowman/MSF

December 20th. Two critical rescues in the dark.
Early in the morning, the Ocean Viking rescues 112 people from a partially deflated rubber boat after several hours of search during the night. In the evening, after another 8 hours of searching, the crew performs another critical rescue. There’s a high risk of the flimsy wooden boat capsizing in high swell and strong wind. 50 people are eventually brought to safety onboard the Ocean Viking.

Menschen ohne Rettungswesten auf einem Schlauchboot im Mittelmeer

Photo by Johan Persson

It is your unwavering support that has allowed us to continue our mission and save lives with a new ship. A day at sea with the Ocean Viking costs €14,000. We will carry on as long as it is necessary and as long as we have the means. You can donate here.

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