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19. August 2020


Stranded migrants on Danish vessel must disembark

For more than two weeks, 27 migrants have been on board the Danish tanker Maersk Etienne in the Mediterranean. The ship is not built for passengers and there is a need for an international solution for the stranded migrants.

On 4 August, the ship Maersk Etienne from the shipping company Maersk Tankers received a request from the Maltese coast guard to come to the rescue of a small boat with 27 migrants on board.

The ship set course for the small boat and took 27 migrants - including a child and a pregnant woman, on board, as their boat was in danger of sinking. A little later, the abandoned boat sank.

Ever since, the crew at Maersk Etienne has provided the migrants with food, water and blankets and helped them as best they can. But supplies soon run out and the ship is not equipped to carry passengers.

- We have yet another situation where seafarers have been asked by authorities to render assistance to people in distress at sea. It goes without saying, that we help people in distress at sea. However, the merchant fleet can’t and should not solve the migrant crisis that unfolds in the Mediterranean Sea, says Maria Skipper Schwenn, executive director for Security, Environment & Maritime Research of Danish Shipping.

After taking the migrants in distress on board, Maersk Etienne has not been allowed to go to port to drop them off again. The ship is therefore now at anchor off the coast of Malta for the second week in a row.

- We need a solution now. The Danish authorities are working hard to find a solution to the problem, but the coastal states in the area must take responsibility and help the poor people on board the ship to disembark, says Maria Skipper Schwenn and continues:

- Seafarers has according to international conventions a legal obligation to help people in distress at sea and the responsible company also has a moral responsibility. As the situation is now, we are letting down the shipping companies and crews that are taking responsibility for people in distress at sea. The coastal states around must react immediately and take their responsibility seriously, so these people can get proper care.