German Boxship Stranded off Lampedusa with Migrants On Board

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Published May 6, 2020 6:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The 13 crewmembers of the German-owned container feeder Marina are stranded off the coast of Lampedusa, awaiting permission to disembark 79 rescued migrants. 

"The master advises that the situation is serious . . . They do not have enough food and water to get them past the next 24 hours and six of the migrants require urgent medical attention. Neither do the crew have sufficient personal protective equipment for the migrants and the situation on board is now very difficult," shipowners' representative Ann Fenech told Times of Malta. 

According to Fenech, the situation on board has grown tense. A group of migrants were reportedly involved in an onboard knife fight, and the crew took measures to isolate themselves in order to ensure their own safety. The incident ended without any injuries.

The Marina is effectively trapped by the long-running disagreement among EU nations over how and where to disembark Mediterranean rescuees. Malta's rescue coordination center asked the Marina to divert from her commercial voyage to pick up a group of migrants in distress; she did so, completing a successful rescue for nearly 80 people.

Once she had finished this mission at Malta's request, Maltese authorities instructed her to proceed to the nearest safe port - the island of Lampedusa, Italy. However, Italian authorities have also refused to allow the Marina to enter, and they insist that it is Malta which should accept the arrivals - leaving the ship stranded and waiting off the coast of Lampedusa. 

Malta closed its ports to migrant rescue arrivals in early April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to conserve health care resources. Italy took a similar action at about the same time, declaring its own ports "unsafe" for migrant arrivals due to the pandemic.