Two vessels in distress near Libya, rescued

22.06.2015 / 10:57 / Off the coast of Libya

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 21st of June 2015

Case name: 2015_06_21-CM26
Situation: 2 vessels in distress in Libyan waters, rescued
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea, Libya

Summary of the Case: On Sunday the 21st of June 2015, in the morning, a member of the Alarm Phone received emergency calls from travellers in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea (vessel 1). In an initial direct exchange with them it emerged that there were about 150 passengers on a vessel which had stopped moving in Libyan waters, presumably due to a broken engine. They had also already reached out to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome. Our shift team passed on the received information, including the coordinates of vessel 1, to the MRCC as well as to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch. MRCC Rome confirmed that they were searching for a vessel in vicinity that could conduct a rescue operation.

At about 10am, Father Mussie Zerai forwarded details of another emergency situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya (vessel 2). A vessel carrying approximately 250 people, including 50 women and 10 children needed urgent assistance. After several attempts, contact to vessel 2 could be established at about 10:30am and we agreed on another call half an hour later to verify their position and the condition of their vessel. About twenty minutes later, the passengers of vessel 2 contacted our shift team again, stating that they could see a helicopter. We advised them to stay very calm and, if possible, wave with coloured clothes. In another phone call shortly afterwards, we advised the travellers to stay seated if a rescue vessel approached them. Then for some time, vessel 2 cannot be reached anymore.

At 11:20am, the passengers of vessel 1 contacted our shift team again, stating that they could see an orange vessel. The crew of the Sea Watch confirmed that MRCC Rome had directed a rescue vessel to vessel 1. In a phone conversation with MRCC Rome, the duty officer suggested that there were two rubber boats in the area. However, when the passengers called the Alarm Phone once again, they stated that they could not see a vessel nearby. Afterwards, communication with the passengers could not be re-established.

We then received another message from Father Zerai who passed on information about vessel 2. The helicopter had left and people on board started to panic. When informing MRCC Rome we were told that they had 8 ongoing cases of distress and not sufficient capacities to send a rescue vessel to vessel 2. At about 2pm, the passengers called us again and, clearly in panic. When reaching out to MRCC Rome once again at 3pm, they confirmed that the merchant vessel ‘Master Nicos’ was instructed to divert its course so that it should reach vessel 2 about one hour later. Contact to vessel 2 could not be established afterwards.

At about 3pm, MRCC Rome confirmed that two rubber vessels were rescued by the vessel ‘Torm Arawa’ and it seems likely that vessel 1 was amongst them. Despite several attempts to contact the passengers of vessel 1 in the following hours, they could not be reached.

Also vessel 2 could also not be contacted anymore. At about 4pm, MRCC Rome confirmed its rescue by an Italian war ship and not the vessel ‘Master Nicos’.
Last update: 11:05 Jun 25, 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

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