73 people rescued from an overloaded boat by the Aquarius on Saturday

Press release                                                           Berlin/ Geneva/ Marseille/ Palermo 13 May 2018

Reduced rescue capacities this Sunday after the Aquarius instructed to head north without delay

The Aquarius, a humanitarian rescue boat chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), rescued 73 people from an overcrowded rubber boat in international waters off Libya on Saturday (12 May). Despite indicating its willingness to continue its search and rescue activity, and while favorable weather conditions meant the likelihood of further potentially perilous departures, the Aquarius received instructions from the authorities to head north without delay on Saturday night. The Aquarius will disembark the 73 survivors in the port of Messina, Sicily, on Monday 14 May.


Rescue of a deflating rubber boat

Saturday at dawn, the Aquarius was back in international waters north of Libya after disembarking 105 survivors in Sicily on Thursday 10 May. At 8:00, the ship received an alert for a boat in distress. This was then spotted within minutes through binoculars by a SOS MEDITERRANEE volunteer. 73 people aboard a deflating small rubber boat were then rescued by the SOS MEDITERRANEE team. The Aquarius conducted the rescue in coordination with the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (IMRCC) in international waters north of Zuwara. Two small fishing boats were in the area during the rescue. Though they did not impede the rescue, our team witnessed the extraction of the engine and gasoline from the rubber boat by the occupants of these fishing vessels once the rescue operation had been completed.  Among the 73 survivors are 12 are women, including 2 pregnant women, and 12 minors, 7 of whom are unaccompanied.


“We were almost going down”

“When we were [on the sea], I thought maybe my life [was] gone… We were almost going down… before the rescue. The rescue came at the right time and nobody died”, said a young Nigerian survivor who spent eleven months in Libya to a SOS MEDITERRANEE volunteer.


Search and rescue capacities reduced this Sunday following the instruction for the Aquarius sail north

Saturday night, the Aquarius receives the instruction from IMRCC – which is coordinating the rescue operation until disembarkation – to sail north without delay to disembark the 73 rescued people rescued earlier that day. The disembarkation will take place at Monday noon in the port of Messina, Sicily. This is the only time and place available for disembarking the rescued people according to the authorities.

This instruction was given despite the indication given by the Aquarius about its ability to continue to search for other boats in distress. In light of a favorable weather forecast for Sunday 13 May, the Aquarius team was concerned that there would be further perilous departures from the Libyan coast. It had indicated to the authorities its capability to remain in the area. The Aquarius has capacity to provide assistance to over 500 survivors on board.

After disembarking 73 people in Messina on Monday 14 May, the Aquarius will head to the port of Catania for a crew change and resupply. The vessel will then go back to sea at the end of the week to continue its rescue mission.

For immediate release. Photos credits: Anthony Jean / SOS MEDITERRANEE.

For further information please contact:
International: Laura Garel / +33 634 395 818 / l.garel@sosmediterranee.org
France: Laura Garel / +33 634 395 818 / l.garel@sosmediterranee.org
Germany: Jana Ciernioch / +49 30 2205 6811  / j.ciernioch@sosmediterranee.org
Italy: Barbara Amodeo / +39 351 208 35 68 / b.amodeo@sosmediterranee.org
Switzerland: Julie Melichar / +41 7647 399 94 j.melichar@sosmediterranee.org