Merchant shipping is still a part of the solution to the rescue of migrants at sea

10th June 2017

In recent years merchant shipping has rescued thousands of refugees at sea in the Mediterranean. The shipping industry therefore does not question the humanitarian imperative to help people and ship in need of assistance. However we see that people traffickers abuse the law of the sea, putting thousands of lives in jeopardy. Therefore the humanitarian crisis is not only a problem for the international community, but it is also very much an issue for the shipping industry.

Europe’s current management of the refugee influx falls short of existing needs. Europe should discourage refugees to embark on the sea crossing in the first place. Additionally the organized crime gangs behind such practices should be traced and dealt with. Merchant vessels picking up refugees should be allowed to disembark them in any European port, exactly as provided for under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). It is extremely important for the shipping industry that the coastal States of the Mediterranean guarantee the implementation of such measures.

In response to this large number of migrants the shipping industry published a guidance on ensuring the safety and security of seafarers and rescued persons. This Guidance is intended to help shipping companies identify and address particular issues that their ships may face when required to conduct a large scale rescue. In particular, matters of primary importance are identified that might be considered when developing ship specific plans and procedures, including the needs of those being rescued and the safety of the ship’s own crew.