05/06: 110 people in distress intercepted by Libyan authorities north of Al Khums/Libya

06.06.2017 / 12:47 / Central Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 5th of June 2017

Case name: 2017_06_05-CM106
Situation: 110 people in distress intercepted by Libyan authorities north of Al Khums/Libya
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Monday the 5th of June 2017 at 6.20am, Father Mussie Zerai informed the Alarm Phone about a boat in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, with about 110 travellers on board. We immediately tried to call them and checked the balance of their satellite phone, but we were not able to reach them directly. At 6.35am, we forwarded the phone number and the GPS position provided by Father Zerai to the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MCCR) via email. At 7am, we saw that the credit of the satellite phone has slightly decreased, yet, we were still not able to reach the travellers directly. Only at 7.30am, we were briefly able to establish connection to them, but the calls broke down twice before we could ask them for their current position. We heard an engine running in the background. At 7.43am, we talked to the crew of the Moonbird, a plane operated by the Search and Rescue NGOs Sea-Watch and Humanitarian Pilots Initiative. They were about to take off for a reconnaissance flight and we agreed to forward to them any new position of the boat in distress we could receive. Afterwards, we continued trying to reach the travellers directly, but without success. At 8.15am, we talked to the Italian MRCC and learnt that they had received an updated GPS position directly from the Thuraya satellite phone one hour earlier, which was still in Libyan territorial waters. We forwarded this information to the crew of Moonbird, who asked us to obtain the position from the MRCC. We did so in another call to the MRCC at 8.56am and forwarded the position to the pilots, which were at that time about to enter the Search and Rescue Zone north of Libya. But as the position given by MRCC was just some miles off the Libyan coast and thus within Libyan territorial waters, the pilots could not go there directly. Instead, they flew in patterns at the 12 nautical miles line and tried to spot the boat. At 9.41am, they wrote to us that they could not spot the boat, but that they saw the Italian coastguard vessel CP941 some miles north of this position in international waters. In the meantime and also in the following hours, we continuously tried to reach the travellers on their satellite phone and also sent several text messages, but we did not reach them anymore. Their phone’s credit remained unchanged. At 10.19am, we talked to the MRCC in Rome again. They had contacted Libyan authorities with respect to the boat in question, and were still waiting for a response. We forwarded this information to Moonbird. At 10.40am, the pilots responded that they had not find the boat and were thus heading to another SAR area further west. In another call with the MRCC in Rome at 12.24am, we were told that they had received an updated position directly from the satellite phone, which was not at sea anymore. Finally, at 2.35am, the MRCC confirmed to us that Libyan authorities had intercepted a boat at the position received by the MRCC and had brought the travellers back to Libya. According to the officer we spoke to, all travellers were rescued and were in good medical conditions.
Last update: 19:15 Jun 13, 2017
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
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  • Border police patrols
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  • Coastal radars
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  • Frontex operations
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  • 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