About 350 people in distress in Central Med, rescued

02.08.2015 / 10:17 / Central Mediterranean Sea, Off the coast of Libya

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigation – 1st of August 2015

Case name: 2015_08_01-CM39
Situation: Vessel in distress in the Central Med, rescued
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea, Libya

Summary of the Case:: On Saturday the 1st of August 2015, Father Zerai contacted the Alarm Phone in the morning and notified us about a distress situation in the Central Mediterranean Sea. He forwarded both the GPS coordinates of the vessel and a satellite phone number of the travellers to us and to rescue agencies. Our shift team tried several times to contact the passengers directly but communications always broke down immediately before any further information could be obtained.

About 40 minutes later, at approximately 9:09am, the people could be reached and they reported that there were many children, pregnant women and sick people on board. They were also able to pass on an updated GPS position. In another conversation at about 9:48am, they stated that they could see a large Italian vessel near them. We informed the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome about the newly won information.

In the meantime, Father Zerai had also received new information and he told us and rescue agencies that there were about 350 on board, including about 70 women and 6-7 children. They had left Libya about 10 hours earlier. In a conversation with MRCC Rome, they confirmed that a large vessel was in vicinity of the boat-people and was launching a rescue operation. For some time, the travellers could not be reached anymore until, at about 10:32am, contact was re-established but broke off quickly. It seemed to indicate that a rescue operation had not been conducted yet. Afterwards, contact was lost again.

At 1.10pm, MRCC Rome confirmed that a rescue operation was currently being carried out. However, at 2.36pm, we succeeded to reach the travellers again and they said that they were still waiting for rescue and were clearly panicking. At 2.42 they were able to pass on their new GPS coordinates and we, again, passed them on to MRCC Rome. MRCC Rome stated that they had the situation under control and they would be rescued. For several hours rescue could not be confirmed and the travellers reached out frequently to tell us about the dramatic situation on the vessel. Then, finally, at 7.35pm, MRCC Rome confirmed the rescue of the vessel and its passengers.

During our shift we followed the movements of the Turkish cargo vessel ‘Yakupaga’ on online vessel tracking maps which may have rescued the travellers. The next day we reached out to the rescue vessel ‘Bourbon Argos’ of Médecins Sans Frontières and they confirmed that they had taken about 200-220 people on board from the Yakupaga the day before. They said that they would be disembarked in Palermo/Italy. While it is possible that they belonged to the group in question, it could not be fully verified.
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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