Four distress cases in the Western Med, interceptions and rescues by Morocco

27.06.2015 / 11:57 / Western Mediterranean Sea, Morocco

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations - 24th, 25th and 26th of June 2015

Case name: 2015_06_24-WM25, 2015_06_25-WM26, 2015_06_26-WM27
Situation: Vessels in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea, intercepted and rescued by the Moroccan Navy
Status of WTM Investigations: Concluded/Ongoing
Place of Incidents: Western Mediterranean Sea, near Morocco

Summary of the Cases: On the 24th, 25th and 26th of June, the Alarm Phone was alerted to four vessels in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. The fate of one vessel remains unknown while two vessels were intercepted by the Moroccan Navy. The fourth vessel had capsized during the journey and, following the information obtained so far, its 20 passengers were rescued by the Moroccan Navy and brought back to Morocco.

In the afternoon of Wednesday the 24th of June 2015, the Alarm Phone shift team learned about a group of people seeking to cross the Western Mediterranean Sea between Morocco and Spain on a small rubber vessel. Direct contact to the passengers could not be established but through a contact person in Morocco our shift team found out that the vessel was in distress. We then alerted the Spanish rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo to the case. They stated that the vessel was presumably too close to the Moroccan coast for them to intervene and rescue. Despite several conversations with our contact person in Morocco, it remains unclear what occurred to the passengers.

On Thursday the 25th of June, our shift team was contacted by someone on mainland Morocco who informed us that a vessel had left the Moroccan coast at 3am, carrying 10 people. We immediately informed the rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo who, however, stated that the information provided were not sufficient to launch a search and rescue operation. In the following hours, we had several phone conversations with our contact person in Morocco who, however, was also not able to obtain direct information from the passengers. In another conversation with Salvamento Maritimo, they informed us that they had been in direct contact with people on a vessel and it seemed likely to be the vessel in question. Following Salvamento Maritimo, they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy which was, shortly afterwards, also confirmed by our contact person in Morocco. A few hours later, the Alarm Phone was alerted to another distress case in the Western Med, again from someone on mainland Morocco. He informed us that a vessel had left in the night from Morocco, with 11 people on board. We knew through the collective Caminando Fronteras that a vessel carrying 11 persons had also been intercepted by Marine Royale and it seemed to be the vessel in question.

On Friday the 26th of June, in the afternoon at about 5pm, the Alarm Phone was alerted to an emergency situation in the Western Mediterranean Sea where, according to our caller, a vessel had capsized with some people being rescued while others were still in the water. We immediately turned to Salvamento Maritimo who had also been alerted to the case by our contact person. They informed us that the people would be rescued by the Moroccan coastguards and that they would follow up to receive a confirmation by the Moroccan authorities. Later on, at about 7pm, Salvamento Maritimo informed us that the Moroccan coastguards had rescued 7 people with the rescue operation still going on. In the meantime, the Moroccan coastguards could not be reached. A friend of the Alarm Phone agreed to visit the police station in Tangier where many of the intercepted people were brought. Around midnight, our friend informed us that, according to the police, 20 people were rescued in the sea, at around 5pm. They said that nobody from that vessel had died and the rescued were briefly arrested at the local police station. It later emerged in the news that two Senegalese had drowned on the same day when their small rubber vessel capsized (see source 1). It is very likely that this was another vessel that had also sought to cross the Western Mediterranean Sea on the day. Our friend in Morocco is currently trying to find out more about the identity of the deceased Senegalese.
Last update: 12:03 Jun 29, 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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