13/01 Alarm Phone alerted to vessel in distress in the Western Med, rescued, but several deaths

14.01.2017 / 12:23 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 13th of January 2017

Case name: 2016_01_13-WM131
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to 1 emergency situation in the Western Med
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Western Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Friday the 13th of January 2017, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone shift team was contacted at approximately 8am by travellers on a vessel in the Western Mediterranean Sea. In several phone conversations with the boat-people, our shift team learned that there were 10 people on a black rubber boat that had left from Tangier/Morocco about 2am. They could not specify the exact location of their departure and were also not able to pass on their current GPS position. They informed us that they could still see the port of Tangier, as well as the beach and black and red vessels in the distance. They asked us to inform Salvamento Maritimo, the Spanish search and rescue organisation.

We reached out to Salvamento at 8.38am and passed on all the acquire information. They informed us that they were engaged in another Search and Rescue operation and wondered whether this was the boat in question. We let the travellers know that we had informed the Spanish authorities. Afterwards we kept calling the boat but the connection remained bad, with a lot of noise in the background.

At 9.44am, Salvamento told us that they were in contact with the boat but not yet able to find them. As of 10.44am, we were unable to reach the boat-people any longer. At 11.30am Salvamento confirmed that they would send out a helicopter to search for the boat. At 1.01pm, Salvamento informed us that they were still in contact with the travellers and trying to find them. They also thought that they were already close to the Spanish coast. In the following hours, our shift team tried repeatedly to call the travellers, without success. In the evening, at 8.25pm, Salvamento informed us that they had unfortunately not been able to find the boat and would re-launch their Search and Rescue operation tomorrow.

The next day we learned that Caminando Fronteras knew of 21 people who had disappeared the day before, with two bodies already found on the beaches of Tarifa. The 21 people had presumably left on two boats, one of which had left already on Thursday, and one on Friday. In the afternoon, at 4.30pm, a contact person informed us also about the dead bodies that had been found. He did not have news regarding the boat carrying 10 people.

The following days we received further information about the shipwrecks. The boat in question had left on the 13th of January at 3am, carrying 7 men and 3 women, presumably on a boat without engine, just paddles. Apparently when the boat approached Tarifa, two men decided to swim to shore. Their whereabouts are unknown.

In bad weather conditions, the boat continued with 8 people on board. By the time Salvamento found the boat, one woman had died on board. The survivors, 5 men and 2 women were brought to Ceuta.

The second boat that Salvamento was searching for carried 12 people, 7 men, 2 women, 2 small children, and one other unspecified person. The hope to find any of them alive is fading, not least as the six corpses that were already found may be from this boat.
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

Related Reports

10:08 Sep 06, 2017 / Western Mediterranean Sea Kms
05/09: 11 persons travellers intercepted by Moroccan Marine Royale
13:29 Jun 24, 2017 / Western Mediterranean Kms
23/06: Travellers intercepted by the Moroccan Navy
19:29 Feb 10, 2016 / Western Mediterranean Sea Kms
09/02: Alarm Phone alerted to boat in Western Med; intercepted by Moroccan Navy