15/03: Alarm Phone alerted to three boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, two rescues confirmed by Proactiva Open Arms

16.03.2018 / 11:00 / Central Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations - 15th of March 2018

Case name: 2018_03_15-CM125
Situation: Alarm Phone alerted to three boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, at least two of them rescued by Proactiva Open Arms
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Central Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Thursday the 15th of March 2018 at 3.39pm, Father Mussie Zerai alerted the Alarm Phone to two boats in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea, with 87 persons on board of the first boat, and 86 on board of the second. They had started at about midnight from Al Khums/Libya and had already reached international waters. Father Mussie Zerai forwarded their GPS positions and their satellite phone numbers and we immediately tried to call them, but without success. One hour later, he also informed us about a third boat, which was travelling in the same area. Although the travellers on this boat were also not reachable for us, we recharged their satellite phone's credit at 5.05pm and again at 5.28pm. In the following hours, we continued trying to reach the travellers and monitored their satellite phone's credit. While the accounts of the first two boats remained stable, the phone of the third boat was frequently used and we recharged its credit several times. In the meantime, we read on Twitter that the Spanish rescue organization Proactiva Open Arms was active in the region and was under attack from Libyan coastguard units, who tried to intercept as many boats as possible in the area. At 6pm, we called the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome and forwarded all information to them, we had received so far. Afterwards, we reached out to Proactiva Open Arms and learned from them that they had rescued 218 people in distress in the area, probably including the two boats Father Mussie Zerai had initially informed us about. At 7pm, we were again in contact with the Italian MRCC via phone and email and asked for information on the boats we had informed them about but were only told that the rescue operations were ongoing. At about 8pm, we also reached out to the shipping company Arcadia Shipmanagement via email, whose vessel Aesean Vision was in the area, and alerted them to the third boat in distress. At 8.15pm, in another call with the MRCC in Rome, the Italian coastguard refused to give to us any further information on the open case. Only after two further calls, at 0.41am of the next day, the MRCC confirmed to us that all boats in distress in this area had been rescued, yet without detailed information on specific cases. During the whole day, we tried to reach the satellite phone of the third boat, but without success. Additionally, we also repeatedly called the MRCC in Rome, in order to obtain more specific information on the open case of the third boat. Yet, we were always put on hold or asked to call again later. Finally, at 8.49pm on Friday evening, we wrote another email to the Italian MRCC, asking for information or confirmation of rescue of the third boat in distress. In the meantime, the rescue vessel of Proactiva Open Arms, which had been attacked by Libyan units, was denied to enter any Italian port, and only on Friday evening they were allowed to head for the port of Pozzallo on Sicily, where they arrived on Saturday morning. We also contacted them, in order to receive information on the third boat we had been informed about. On Thursday, the 15th of March, a lot of boats had tried to leave Libya, but many of them have been intercepted by Libyan coastguard units.
Last update: 09:32 Mar 21, 2018
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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