Supplies depleting onboard Maersk’s tanker stranded at sea after rescuing migrants

Image courtesy: Maersk Tankers

Danish-flagged tanker Maersk Etienne has been stuck at sea for almost a month amid a standstill with Maltese authorities that refuse to pick up the migrants the vessel rescued from Tunisian waters at the beginning of August.

Maltese officials requested the tanker on August 4 to rescue 27 migrants stranded in Tunisian waters. However, ever since the authorities have failed to provide for disembarkation of the affected people, allowing the vessel to move forward with its journey.

The rescued – who include a pregnant woman and at least one minor – have been forced to remain on board Maersk Etienne now for twenty-nine days.

“This is a new and unfortunate record for migrants held abroad a commercial ship,” Maersk Tankers said, urging for the situation to be resolved.

Based on the report from BBC, the migrants are sleeping on the tanker’s decks.

“Our crew continue to provide as much support and assistance as they can to this vulnerable group, but they lack the resources to offer sustained humanitarian and medical care. A tanker ship is neither designed nor equipped to accommodate additional people; we therefore find ourselves in a situation where our supplies are rapidly depleting,” Maersk Tankers said.

The company is urging responsible governments for humanitarian assistance and a safe disembarkation of the rescued people.

“We ask the relevant authorities to ensure that these migrants are immediately tended to and provided the care and attention they need. Doing so will also allow our captain and crew to continue their voyage and return home to their families,” Maersk pointed out.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have both voiced their concerns over the lack of political response over this crisis.

“A commercial tanker cannot be considered a suitable place to keep people in need of humanitarian assistance or those who may need international protection. Appropriate COVID-19 prevention measures can be implemented once they reach dry land,” IOM and UNHCR insisted.

At the end of August, there were more than 400 rescued migrants and refugees currently onboard three vessels in the Central Mediterranean.

“IOM and UNHCR are deeply concerned about the continued absence of dedicated EU-led search and rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean. With relatively fewer NGO vessels compared to previous years, the gap is being increasingly filled by commercial vessels,” the two organizations pointed out.

“It is vital that they are permitted to disembark rescued passengers promptly, as without such timely processes, shipmasters of commercial vessels may be deterred from attending to distress calls for fear of being stranded at sea for weeks on end.”