The crew of the Ocean Viking following three rescues has saved 276 (corrected number) people from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, including 22 women and 64 minors, most of them unaccompanied by an adult. On Sunday, March 1st, all survivors were allowed to disembark in Pozzallo, Sicily.
The crew planned to continue their mission quickly. However, the Ocean Viking was asked to remain anchored outside the port of Pozzallo for 14 days until Sunday 8th of March, following precautionary measures by the Italian government in response to the covid-19 outbreak.
15 February 2020: After a port call of two weeks in Marseille, the Ocean Viking sets course to the Central Mediterranean, ready to resume her lifesaving mission.
17 February 2020: At midnight the Ocean Viking reaches the Libyan search and rescue zone.
18 February 2020: At 7:30 am the crew of the Ocean Viking discovers the first distress at sea. A dangerously overcrowded, unseaworthy wooden boat is located 71 NM off the Libyan coast. The rescue operation takes one hour. At 8:54 am all 84 survivors are safely on board the Ocean Viking.
A second rescue operation takes place in the afternoon. The crew of the Ocean Viking discovers a rubber boat in distress 37 NM off the Libyan coast at 15:45 pm. Deteriorating bad weather conditions threaten to collapse the rubber boat. At 5:38 pm the operation is complete and 98 more survivors can be safely accommodated on board the Ocean Viking.
19 February 2020: A third operation is carried out in less than 48 hours. Under difficult conditions with waves up to 2.5 meters high, another 92 people near the Sabratha oil platform can safely board the Ocean Viking at 12:45 pm. Among the survivors are 28 minors and 21 women.
In the afternoon, the Libyan authorities are contacted by the Crew for the allocation of a Place of Safety.
In the absence of a reply from the Libyan Sea authorities, the Ocean Viking asks the Maltese and Italian RCCs for assistance in facilitating a swift disembarkation.
22 February 2020: In the evening the rescue ship is assigned a safe harbour in Pozzallo.
23 February 2020: All 276 survivors on board the Ocean Viking safely disembark in Pozzallo.
The crew plans to continue their mission quickly. The Ocean Viking is currently anchored outside the port of Pozzallo, following a decision by the Italian authorities who have prescribed a quarantine measure for the ship and the crew. The Italian authorities state that this is a precautionary measure in response to the covid-19 outbreak. SOS MEDITERRANEE understands the comply with prevention precautions in the context of exceptional public health measures in Italy. SOS MEDITERRANEE notes, however, that there have not been any reports of other ships or aircraft in the country affected by compulsory quarantine measures yet. The decision must not be used as a pretext to prevent Ocean Viking from resuming its life-saving mission in the central Mediterranean.
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Photo credits (cover photo): Anthony Jean/ SOS MEDITERRANEE