After an eleven-hour port inspection, the Italian coast guard has detained the Ocean Viking late Wednesday evening in Porto Empedocle, Sicily. The authorities are prohibiting the Ocean Viking from returning to sea to continue its life-saving operations. Their reasoning? The Ocean Viking has carried more people on board than the number it is licensed to carry.
The main argument is that we carry to many rescued people. According to the Italian coastguard, people are not safe on board. It is very surprising considering the fact that the last three inspections only required minimal adjustments. The past inspection was even carried out by the same Italian coastguard that is now taking the Ocean Viking out of service. No changes in safety regulations could possibly explain the new measure taken by the Port State.
The only explanation we can find is: harassment. This is not the first time the Italian authorities have used the safety argument to prevent civilian Search and Rescue at sea. The Ocean Viking is already the fourth civil rescue vessel to be detained in three months and withdrawn from service by the Italian authorities because of alleged safety concerns or alleged technical defects. Italian authorities are currently preventing civil society from saving lives in the Mediterranean on a systematic basis. The past few months have shown that people continue to risk their lives by fleeing Libya on unseaworthy boats.
Join us now in demanding the Italian authorities for the immediate release of the Ocean Viking! Sign here
The fact that the Italian authorities have detained the Ocean Viking for carrying more people than she is certified for goes against the duty to provide assistance at sea, which is enshrined in international maritime law. According to this law, people rescued from distress at sea are not to be considered “passengers” but “survivors”. When a ship rescues people in an emergency situation, it is in the nature of things that there are more people on board than the number of people indicated in the ship’s papers. It is the duty of every captain to save people in distress at sea – no matter how many people the ship is approved for on paper!
The international regulations, which set minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, also state: When authorities check whether the regulations are being observed on board, they must not take shipwrecked persons into account.
These unjustified blockades must end! Join us on calling for the immediate release of the Ocean Viking!