26/06 Alarm Phone alerted to a boat in distress off Libya, rescue unconfirmed

27.06.2017 / 21:58 / Libya

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 26th of June 2017

Case name: 2017_06_26-CM112
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to vessel in distress off Libya
Status of WTM Investigation: Open
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Monday the 26th of June 2017, at 11.38am our shift team received a message from the Moonbird, the Humanitarian Pilots Initiative’s aerial asset. They informed us about a boat with 160 travellers on board and forwarded their GPS position. None of the other Search and Rescue (SAR) NGOs were able to come to this boat as they were preoccupied with several operations elsewhere. The Moonbird pilots instructed us to alert the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome.

When we spoke to MRCC Rome at 12.04pm, they told us that they had heard about a boat in a similar position, carrying 130 people, which had already been rescued in the morning, either by assets of the NGOs Jugend Rettet or Sea-Eye. In another phone call shortly afterwards, they insisted that the boat had probably been rescued and we would need to find out ourselves whether this had been the case or not. At 12.44pm, the Moonbird crew informed us that they had been able to direct fishermen to the migrant boat but it was unclear whether they could actually carry out a SAR operation. They also stated that they had witnessed how the Libyan coastguards had interfered in rescue attempts of NGOs nearby, by assaulting travellers. Following their account, all assets of the NGOs were overcrowded, so that none of them could direct themselves to the boat in question. At 1.11pm, we spoke to MRCC Rome again and forwarded updated coordinates of the boat that we had received. They claimed that there was nothing they could do, stressing that there were about 4000 people in distress and that all rescue assets were fully engaged in SAR operations. We spoke to MRCC Rome again at 2.20pm and at 4.55pm, but in both instances, they did not clearly state whether or not a rescue operation had been launched for the boat in question.

In exchanges with the crew of the NGO asset ‘Iuventa’, learned that they had been involved in monitoring and rescue operations of several wooden and rubber boats all day. One rubber boat they had rescued came close to the description of the boat in question but the timing of its rescue showed that it could not have been it. On the image of the boat that Moonbird had forwarded to us, we could see that it was a white rubber boat with a grey engine that was heading in the wrong direction, thus not closer toward the zone where the NGOs were conducting their SAR operations.

However, we did learn that there were several white rubber boats still arriving in the NGO’s SAR zone, so there was hope that the boat in question was among them. We forwarded the image of the rubber boat to the crews of Sea-Watch and Iuventa and asked them to watch out for this boat. At 8.50pm, MRCC Rome contacted us, asking us to verify the GPS coordinates of the boat, which we did. However, while we believe that it is likely that the boat was among the many boats that were found and rescued on that day, we can unfortunately not verify it.
Last update: 17:19 Jul 26, 2017
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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