Rettungseinsatz SOS MEDITERRANEE Januar 2021

Onboard the Ocean Viking for her 10th mission at sea: situation recap – 373 survivors disembarked in Augusta, Sicily

Last update: 25/01/2021 at 08:00 (All times in UTC +1h)


Following the release of the Ocean Viking from a 5-month detention by Italian authorities on December 21, the ship sailed from Augusta, Sicily, to Marseille, France, to restock and embark the SOS MEDITERRANEE teams.

The Ocean Viking departed from Marseille on 11 January 2021, after having implemented strict pre-boarding COVID-19 prevention protocols for the twenty-two medical and rescue team members, nine members of the ship’s crew and two invited reporters covering the current mission on board. All have been tested negative for COVID-19 several times. Strict prevention and mitigation protocols are also being applied at all times onboard the vessel.

On January 21, 2021, the Ocean Viking rescued 119 people from a rubber boat in distress in international waters, about 37NM off the coast of Libya. On January 22, the vessel rescued further 149 people from two rubber boats in distress, 37 NM off the coast and later on the same day, a fourth rubber boat in distress was spotted and 106 people rescued at nightfall 28 NM off the Libyan coast.

On January 23, the Italian Coastguard performed the medical evacuation of an 8-month pregnant woman from the ship, which remains in international waters, waiting for a Place of Safety to be promptly assigned for the remaining 373 survivors.

On January 24, the Ocean Viking was assigned Augusta, Sicily, as Place of Safety, where survivors disembarked on 25th of January and 26th of January.


11 January 2021: The Ocean Viking sets course from Marseille to the central Mediterranean.

14 January 2021: The Ocean Viking sets course for Olbia, Sardinia, for necessary repairs on one of our RHIBs.

20 January 2021: While heading towards a boat in distress in international waters off Libya, Sea-Watch´s monitoring aircraft Moonbird informed the Ocean Viking that the boat was being intercepted by the Libyan coastguard.
Yet another forced return to Libya, which is not a Place of Safety according to maritime law. Around the wreck of the rubber boat, the SOS MEDITERRANEE teams onboard could see personal items and baby diapers floating in the water. From the stories we have heard from people we rescued over the years, we can imagine what fate awaits people who tried to flee.

21 January 2021: The crew of the OceanViking rescued 119 people from a dangerously overcrowded rubber boat in distress 37 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. Among the survivors are four small children, the youngest is only one month old.

22. Januar 2021: The crew on the Ocean Viking rescued 149 people from two rubber boats in distress. The operations started with the first daylight. Many small children and women are among the survivors.

22. January 2021: In the afternoon, an overcrowded rubber boat in distress was spotted from the bridge of the Ocean Viking. The operation almost turned critical when some people went overboard. They were recovered by the rescue team.

106 people were rescued in this evening’s operation, which occurred in international waters, 28 NM from the Libyan coast. Most of the people onboard the rubber boat were found highly intoxicated with fuel fumes by the rescue team.

23. January 2021: In the morning, Ocean Viking requested a medical evacuation for an eight months pregnant woman due to a high risk pregnancy in need of medical attention on shore. An Italian coastguard vessel promptly performed the evacuation in the afternoon.

24. January 2021: Weather in the central Mediterranean deteriorated rapidly. Many of the 373 rescued people are seasick. Swells are increasing and there is no place to shelter at sea.

In the late afternoon: Big relief on board as the Ocean Viking was assigned a Place of Safety in Augusta, Sicily.

25. January 2021: The Ocean Viking moored in the port of Augusta, Sicily and the Italian health authorities were testing the survivors and crew on board for COVID-19. The COVID-19 tests all came back negative. 111 people have disembarked. The remaining survivors spent the night on board, at anchorage off Augusta.

26. January 2021: In the early afternoon: all survivors finally disembark in Augusta, Sicily – an emotional farewell.

For more information about our operations please check out our Twitter account or visit our online logbook.

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Photo credits: Fabian Mondl / SOS MEDITERRANEE & Julia Schaefermeyer / SOS MEDITERRANEE