03/12: 21 travellers from Morocco, 3 people missing

04.12.2017 / 20:09 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 3rd of December 2017
Case name: 2017_12_03-WM191
Situation: 21 travellers from Morocco, 3 people missing
Status of WTM Investigation: Not concluded
Place of Incident: Western Mediterranean

Summary of the Case:
On Sunday the 3rd of December, at 08:03am, we got alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress that had left from a beach south of Tangier towards Spain at 5am, carrying 21 persons. We called the boat at 08:13am and heard the voices of the travellers as well as the engine of the boat, but they could not hear us. We tried to gather more information about the exact place of departure in order to localize the boat. At 09:10am we managed to establish communication with the boat. Their engine wasn’t working anymore and they reported that people had fallen into the water. At 09:15am we alerted the Spanish rescue authority Salvamento Maritimo (SM). At 09:35am we called the boat again. They reported that only three persons were left on board out of the initial 21 travellers and that the others were in the water. At 09:45am we informed SM whose search operation we could observe on the live map Vesselfinder.
Only at 10:18am did we manage to re-establish contact to the travellers. The situation was getting more dangerous due to rising waves and water that entered the boat. We tried to localize them with descriptions of the commercial cargo ships they saw. We were in contact several times and always passed on the information we were given to SM. At 10:50am we managed to get a clear indication of their position: They saw a name of a cargo ship whose position we checked with Vesselfinder. They were between the cargo ship and the Moroccan coast.
At 10:52am we called SM to pass the news, and wrote an email with all information to the relevant authorities. At 11:19 we observed on Vesselfinder that the rescue asset of Salvamento Maritimo was leaving the area back towards the harbour of Tarifa. At 11:22am we called SM to investigate. They emphasized that the boat in distress was in Moroccan waters and therefore the case would not be their responsibility. They said that they had informed the Moroccan authorities. At 11:35am we called the Moroccan Rescue Coordination Center MRCC Rabat. They confirmed to have received the information from SM and said they would start a rescue operation.
We could not establish contact to the boat anymore and called MRCC Rabat again at 12:00, but they hadn’t found the boat yet. Also Salvamento didn’t have news.
At 12:42pm we reached the boat again. One person had lost consciousness, and the situation was getting critical. We could not find further indication of their position.
At 12:45pm we called MRCC Rabat again, but they did not have news. We therefore wrote another email to the Spanish and Moroccan authorities to request assistance from Spain in the search operation.
At 2:33pm the contact person informed us that the 18 people who were missing had survived and were with the Moroccan authorities. This information was confirmed at 4:30pm by SM.
We could not reach the travellers anymore. During the following days we were continuously calling SM and MRCC Rabat to put pressure on them to continue the search, and to find out if there were any new developments in the case. MRCC Rabat kept confirming that they were still searching for the boat, whilst SM claimed to have no responsibility in the case, as the boat had been in Moroccan waters. On the 6th of December at 5.47pm we chose to conclude that the three people had gone missing, as MRCC Rabat informed us that they were now mainly looking for other boats in the area. This catastrophe could probably have been avoided, if SM had chosen to act in the interest of saving lives at the point where we had a clear indication of the whereabouts of the boat. Instead they acted in the interest of fortress Europe, whose policy it is to push back the task of saving lives to their neighbouring states, without assuming any responsibility for the outcome.
Last update: 20:57 Dec 10, 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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