Press Release Marseille, 01 August 2018
Back at sea: After major adjustments made to address an uncertain context, the Aquarius returns as one of the last humanitarian ships left in the Central Mediterranean to rescue and testify, with strong support from the European civil society.
MARSEILLE, 01 August 2018 – Two and a half years ago after setting sail for the first time from the port of Marseille, the rescue vessel Aquarius, chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is going back at sea on the 1st of August 2018.
Despite a radical shift in the operational context for humanitarian interventions in the Mediterranean, the Aquarius operations are driven by the same conviction that there is no alternative to saving lives in distress at sea, and by the same principle rooted in maritime tradition that no human being should be left drowning at sea.
Since it first left the port of Marseille in February 2016, the Aquarius rescued 29.318 men, women and children from drowning, of which 2.979 in 2018.
“The humanitarian tragedy at sea is still ongoing at our doorstep, but the failure of the EU in addressing it is under our eyes: Over 1,100 people died in the Central Mediterranean since early 2018. Nearly two-thirds of these deaths – 721 – occurred since June, when civil rescue assets were prevented from operating in the international waters off the coast of Libya,” said Frédéric Penard, Directer of Operations of SOS MEDITERRANEE
Recent developments are of major concern, such as the recognition of the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the end of June, the closure of the nearest European ports to SAR NGOs, the incoherent conclusions of the last European Council summit and the absence of concrete plans at a European level which have left NGO ships with uncertainty. For the first time in over two years of uninterrupted search and rescue operations at sea off the Libyan shores, the Aquarius had to stop at a port for an extended period of time, in order to adapt strategically and technically to this radical shift in the context.