Press Release

Thursday 8 July 2021

London.UK. SOS MEDITERRANEE chartered ship Ocean Viking still waiting to hear from the Italian and Maltese Maritime authorities on a place of safety for disembarkation of the 572 survivors, including children who are stranded on board the ship since early July.

Amidst the weather deterioration and the humanitarian emergency on board,  the Italian maritime coordination search and rescue centres need to designate a port for disembarkation as per the Search and Rescue Convention. The rescue operation is not completed until disembarkation in a place of safety.

Below is the Statement of SOS MEDITERRANEE SAR Coordinator, Luisa Albera, updating on the situation on board

“ The situation onboard the Ocean Viking is worsening by the hour. There is no time for discussions behind closed doors. A solution must be found immediately, and a Place of Safety designated for the 572 survivors onboard. Despite five requests for a Place of Safety sent by the Ocean Viking to competent maritime authorities, we are being kept in the dark. Making survivors wait on the deck of our ship, exposed to the sun and elements, is inhumane. It is beyond imagination. Inevitably, tensions and exhaustion are at the upmost onboard the Ocean Viking.

Yesterday evening, a man in acute psychological distress jumped overboard. He explained his desperate gesture by saying that he could have held on should he had known when the disembarkation would take place, but that he “could not take the uncertainty anymore”. The medical and care teams observe an increase of psychological distress and exhaustion among the women, children and men onboard. One of the two minors with disabilities is showing signs of increasing body stiffness due to the reduction of physical movements and had to be moved to the medical clinic at night. A ship is by definition a temporary mean of transportation to a Place of safety for people rescued at sea. Keeping people on a ship for a prolonged period of time, when they have just been through a near-death experience at sea, is adding unnecessary and avoidable violence and suffering.

In addition, we will run out of pre-packed 24-hour food kits tomorrow and will not be able to fulfil all survivors’ nutritional needs by Saturday. With over 570 survivors accommodated on the  deck of the Ocean Viking, all available space is being used, which makes it almost impossible for our teams to distribute any other kind of food than pre-packed rations covering 24 hours of nutritional needs for each person. Cooked meals would take too long to prepare to cover the needs of all and would be too complicated to distribute as people can barely move around the ship.

As if the plight of the survivors was not enough, the weather will be deteriorating tomorrow. If no solution is found by tonight, the Ocean Viking will have to seek shelter east of Sicily tomorrow. It is not only a moral obligation to swiftly provide a Place of Safety to people rescued at sea, it is a legal duty. We call on European members states to show solidarity and support coastal states. Maritime authorities cannot leave us all in such dire conditions longer. A solution must be found now.”