SOS MEDITERRANEE, charterer of the Aquarius and operated in partnership with Médecins sans Frontières, has satisfied for the last two years all regulatory requests arising from the competencies of the Gibraltar Flag State, and all technical controls regarding security and safety of the ship. No deficiencies were ever reported.
While for the last two and half years, the Aquarius has conducted more than 200 Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, in complete transparency and regularly informing all competent authorities, the Gibraltar Maritime Authority is disguising a political manoeuvre behind an incoherent argument:
1. By abusively pretending that clearance should be obtained in order to conduct rescue operations, while the mere principle of rescue at sea is an overaching principle which falls upon all flags, all ships and on all seas, and while all the operations of the Aquarius have always been strictly been conducted in compliance with maritime law and SAR competent authorities.
2. By creating an artificial difference between « survey » and « rescue » ships; a difference which is not technically founded. The Aquarius has always been recognised as well-suited to carry out rescues by the competent authorities, which on numerous occasions, handed over to her rescued people due to her capacity. Furthermore, the Gibraltar Maritime Authority itself has registered the Aquarius as a SAR vessel with the International Maritime Organisation.
3. By pretending to care about the fate of the 141 people onboard the Aquarius and recalling their obligations to Coastal States of the Central Mediterranean, while this new development from the Flag State, as the Aquarius is in the middle of an operation, is itself likely to jeopardise a prompt sheltering of the survivors.
As the Aquarius and her shipowner were in dialogue with the Gibraltar Maritime Authority to respond to its abusive argumentation, the publication of a press release written in haste and with little understanding of the current situation, only attests a deliberate will to stop the rescue activity of the Aquarius, one of the last civil and humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
SOS MEDITERRANEE remains available for an open, transparent and fair discussion with the Gibraltar Maritime Authority, in the strict respect of laws and regulations which are at the core of its mission.