09/08 Alarm Phone alerted to vessel in distress in the Western Med, returned to Morocco

10.08.2016 / 09:36 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 9th of August 2016

Case name: 2016_08_09-WM113
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 1 emergency situation in the Western Med
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Aegean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Tuesday the 9th of August 2016, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was alerted at 2.45am to a boat carrying 11 people, 9 men and 2 women, in the Western Mediterranean Sea. They had left Tangier at midnight and reported that they were in urgent distress and facing difficult weather conditions. Our shift team immediately reached out to Salvamento Maritimo, the Spanish search and rescue organisation, and passed on all the obtained information about the distress case. In direct exchanges with the travellers they told us at 3am that they could see a vessel in vicinity and at 3.20am they stated that the vessel near-by was coloured red and white. At 3.35am, the travellers seemed increasingly anxious. In regular exchanges with Salvamento Maritimo, our shift team sought to establish the whereabouts of the refugees, but without GPS coordinates or exact descriptions of their position, it was very difficult to establish their location. At 4.15am, one of the refugees stated: “I can see two small ships and one big ship, the big ship is on the left, the small ships in front of me, I can Salvamento, the small ship is Salvamento.” We immediately passed this information on to the Spanish authorities. After further exchanges with the refugees and Salvamento, the authorities informed us at 5.05am that they were not able to find the boat. They suggested that despite the account of the refugees, it did not seem to be a Spanish rescue vessel that they could see. At 5.40am, the refugees stated that they could not see the Salvamento vessel anymore but, instead, a larger boat. After that we were unable to reconnect to the refugees for about one hour. At 6.30am Salvamento informed us that they had also lost the phone connection to the refugees. At 7am, we could reach the refugees again and they reported that they were at the same position, and the large vessel was still in vicinity. This was the last time we were able to speak to them. At 9.49am Salvamento informed us that they were unable to find the boat and that, instead, the Moroccan forces may have found and returned the vessel. At 11.28am they confirm that the Moroccan Navy had discovered and returned two vessels, one of which had carried 11 people. We verified the phone numbers and it became clear that it was the vessel in question.
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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