Rescued persons on the high seas

Refugees and Migrants

The development

Members will be aware of the continuing and enduring refugee crisis situation in the Mediterranean Sea, indeed a number of Skuld member vessels have already assisted in the rescue of persons in distress at sea this year.

The underlying driving forces for this situation have not improved since the start of the year and in some respects have further deteriorated. It is therefore likely that the combination of conflict in certain areas in Africa and the Middle East, as well as a weak security situation in Libya, will mean a continued flow of refugees heading towards Europe, particularly Italy, by way of sea routes from North Africa.

The Norwegian Shipowners Association has now developed a set of guidelines to assist shipowners in dealing with this situation, as well as a checklist and a registration form, which are republished here with their kind permission.

The NSA advice is detailed and very helpful.

Members are recommended to review the same carefully.

NSA: Suggested guidelines

NSA: One-page checklist for large scale SAR operations

NSA: Refugees at sea registration form

Loss prevention advice

Members are reminded of the Association's previous advices on Mediterranean refugees of 7 July 2014.

The Association has also published advice on generally dealing with stowaway and refugee situations: Safely with Skuld - Stowaways.

In addition to those advices the Association recommends that members ensure they understand the present situation fully and be certain that whenever their vessels proceed in to an area, where a sea rescue situation may be likely, that vessels and crews are properly prepared for this eventuality.

At present the majority of these matters arise out the North African / Mediterranean situation, and vessels trading in or through that area should be briefed in advance of the possibility that they may be called upon to assist with the rescue of persons distressed at sea or come across such people on their voyage.

In that regard it is also important to remind masters of their duty to render such assistance, which is enshrined in Regulation 33 of SOLAS.

Special advice for the control of the spread of infectious diseases

If the rescued persons are from West Africa, or show signs of illness, then the Association would recommend that:

  1. immediate contact be made with either the authority that ordered the rescue or the nearest state (likely to be Italy) where rescued persons may be disembarked
  2. crew assist the boarding of persons in full protective clothing
  3. crew limit interaction with the persons rescued
  4. any interaction be conducted only by way of full protective clothing
  5. the accommodation block is to be guarded and all access is to be prevented
  6. all materials, clothing, blankets, cooking utensils, toilets and other items provided to the rescued persons may need to be incinerated or otherwise safely disposed of after disembarkation
  7. vessel areas which the rescued persons used will need to be disinfected after disembarkation

The Association has recently provided advice for bulk carriers and container vessels for reducing the risk of West African calls with respect to Ebola outbreaks and some elements of these advices, particularly with respect to personal hygiene and protective gear, may be useful for such a situation, too.

These advices can be accessed here:

A> Container Carriers: Container Vessel Guide
B> Bulk Carriers: Bulker Guide
C> Ebola Outbreak: Ebola Insight

In any case, should a member's vessel be asked by an authority to assist in a search and rescue operation, or should the vessel discover distressed persons at sea, then immediate contact should be made with the Association so that advice, support and assistance can be given to the master and crew.

The Association is grateful to the Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NSA) for permission to republish their recent guidelines and related material in relation to the issue of refugees at sea.

Rescued persons on board a vessel
Courtesy of a Skuld member