‘EU measures needed for disembarking people rescued by merchant ships’

The shipping industry has called on the European Commission to ensure the EU Migration Pact is complemented by measures to ensure merchant vessels are guaranteed prompt and predictable disembarkations for persons rescued at sea. ECSA, ICS, ETF and ITF jointly sent an open letter to this effect.

The letter has been signed by Martin Dorsman, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Livia Spera, Acting General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

In the letter, the organisations state they wanted ‘to express our deep disappointment and concern that the European Commission’s new migration pact fails to deliver any reassurances to merchant vessels and their crews.’ They want ‘the European Commission to remind EU member states of their responsibilities to ensure prompt and predictable disembarkations when merchant ships have rescued persons in distress.’

Humanitarian crises

The recent cases of the Talia and Maersk Etienne saw merchant ships with rescued persons stuck on board that were not welcome in any EU member state, resulting in humanitarian crises onboard. The petitioners say ‘these cases demonstrated that there is still no guarantee that merchant ships will receive prompt and adequate assistance when fulfilling their humanitarian responsibilities, despite there being clear requirements under international law. We believe that the absence of a reference to these obligations in the Migration Pact is a missed opportunity to deliver important reassurances to seafarers and the wider industry that pragmatic and swift solutions will be found, and safe ports provided to conclude rescues safely, promptly and predictably.’

In a recommendation issued by the European Commission, the focus is on rescues conducted by humanitarian organisations and national SAR services. According to the letter, it thereby ‘failed to recognise that merchant vessels and their crews have played a significant role in providing search and rescue to those in distress in the central Mediterranean in recent years in accordance with moral grounds and with the obligations placed upon them by international conventions.’

The petitioners hope, therefore, that Pact will be adjusted accordingly.

Picture by Irish Defence Forces.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.