Three vessels in distress in the Central Med, rescued

16.06.2015 / 19:07 / Central Mediterranean Sea, Off the coast of Libya

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 15th of June 2015

Case name: 2015_06_15-CM25
Situation: 3 vessels in distress in Libyan waters, rescued
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea, Libya

On Monday the 15th of June, the Alarm Phone was alerted to three vessels in distress. While, fortunately, their rescue was later confirmed to the Alarm Phone, there were no mainstream media reports about the many rescue operations of that day as well as hardly any official accounts providing information about the rescue operations, possible fatalities and the number of rescued travellers. With the novel EU military mission ‘Eunavfor Med’ approaching, this seems to fold into an official rationale where rescue operations are sought to be not reported, in order not to create a ‘pull-factor’. We from the Alarm Phone oppose this highly dangerous and irresponsible strategy and demand clear public accounts of what is currently going on in the Mediterranean Sea.

Summary of the Case On the 15th of June 2015, at around 5:30am, Father Mussie Zerai alerted the Alarm Phone to a situation of distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. Following his information, a vessel with approximately 550 people on board, including 100 women and 18 children was in distress with water entering the vessel (henceforth referred to as vessel 1). He passed on a satellite phone number which, however, could not be reached by our shift team. We then reached out to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome who had already been informed about this particular vessel and confirmed that they were searching for it.

At about 7:30am, our shift team received another message from Father Zerai with information about a second vessel in distress (vessel 2). Father Zerai had already informed the Italian authorities and our shift team was again not able to reach the passengers on their satellite phone.

In a phone conversation with the crew of the Bourbon Argos at around 8am, which is the vessel of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), we were informed that they already knew about vessel 1 and confirmed that MRCC Rome had ordered another vessel to conduct a rescue operation. We called both vessels every 10 minutes but contact to them could not be established.

At around 2pm, the Alarm Phone received a third message from Father Zerai about yet another vessel in distress (vessel 3). Neither he nor later the shift team was able to contact the passengers directly. About one hour later Father Zerai received coordinates of vessel 3 which were then passed on to MRCC Rome, MOAS as well as MSF. At 4:38pm, MRCC Rome confirmed to us that an operation was rescuing the passengers of vessel 3.

The Alarm Phone later received the confirmation that all three vessels were rescued.
Last update: 19:22 Jun 23, 2015
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Layers »
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans

Related Reports

15:16 Apr 05, 2015 / Off the coast of Libya Kms
500 People in Distress off the coast of Libya, all rescued
18:23 Nov 01, 2017 / Central Mediterranean Sea Kms
31/10: 80 travellers from Sabratah rescued to Italy
21:46 May 05, 2016 / Central Mediterranean Sea Kms
04/05: 1 distress case in the Central Mediterranean Sea, rescued to Italy