4 vessels in distress, 2-3 intercepted, 1-2 rescued by Spain

31.07.2015 / 18:49 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations 30th of July 2015

Case name: 2015_07_30-WM34
Situation: Vessels in distress between Morocco and Spain
Status of WTM Investigations: Concluded
Place of Incidents: Western Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Cases: On Thursday the 30th of July 2015, the Alarm Phone was contacted at approximately 3.30am by someone with a Moroccan phone number who could only state that they were in distress at sea before the connection broke down. Our shift team was called again a few minutes later and told that there were 6 people on a vessel in distress and they had left the Moroccan coast a few hours earlier on a rubber boat. We then turned to the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo who said that they would take on the case. In the meantime, the travellers called repeatedly and asked for urgent rescue. At approximately 4.15am, Salvamento Maritimo confirmed that they sent out a rescue vessel and we passed the info on to the travellers. At approximately 4.45am Salvamento Maritimo reported that they had difficulties finding the vessel despite being in direct contact with the travellers as well. Afterwards, contact to the vessel could not be re-established. We reached out to Salvamento Maritimo once again at approximately 6am and they were still searching for the vessel. Hours later, at about 9.30am, Salvamento Maritimo confirmed that they passengers had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy.

At approximately 7.30am on the same day, we received a call from someone whose family was at sea. We received a phone number of one of the travellers and contacted them directly. There were 11 people on board and they asked us to contact Salvamento Maritimo. The Spanish rescue organisation confirmed that they were already looking for the vessel in question. At 9.30 am, their rescue by Salvamento Maritimo was confirmed.

We were alerted to a third case of distress by a contact person who told us about a group that left the Moroccan shores in the early hours of the day. We reached out to them and they told us, around 9am, that there were 10 people on board. One hour later the travellers confirmed that they had been intercepted by the Moroccan Navy.

In the afternoon, at approximately 5.15pm, we were called by a man who told us he was at a boat with 12 persons which had left Cap Spartel at around 10.00am and they needed to be rescued. We informed Salvamento Maritimo and after obtaining the permission from the caller, passed on the phone number to the Spanish rescue organisation. Salvamento Maritimo stated that they thought that the caller was not himself on a vessel but in fact calling from mainland Morocco to get information about his friends who had probably been intercepted earlier in the day by the Moroccan navy. They suggested that they would not send out their rescue teams, vessels and helicopters if they could not rely on the given information. They were certain that the vessel in question had already been intercepted by Morocco as they knew of such case concerning a group of 12 travellers. We then sought to get in touch with our initial contact person but he could not be reached anymore.
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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