Good Samaritan Ships Carry Out Mass Rescue in English Channel

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The product tanker Thun Garland responds to a migrant boat in distress, Oct. 24 (Premar Manche)

Published Oct 24, 2021 9:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, the French rescue coordination center CROSS Gris-Nez organized a rescue for 39 maritime migrants who went into the water in the Strait of Dover. The center had the assistance of three good samaritan vessels, and working together they successfully retrieved all survivors, with no loss of life.

During the day, the center received an alert that a migrant boat was in difficulty in the strait. Several of the passengers had gone overboard in cold water. 

Watchstanders broadcast a general mayday message to call for assistance from nearby merchant vessels. Simultaneously, they launched multiple rescue assets: a Dauphin helicopter of the French Navy based in Le Touquet; the French Navy's public service patrol vessel Cormorant; and the all-weather lifeboat President Jacques Huret, operated by the National Society for Rescue at Sea (SNSM) of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The British HM Coastguard helicopter Rescue 163 was also put on alert.

Meanwhile, three good samaritans - the fishing vessel Parti De Rien and two merchant ships, the Arco Dijk and the Thun Garland - responded quickly to the scene. 

On arrival, the French Dauphin helicopter crew found that the boat had already sunk and that 39 survivors were in the water. Six of the migrants were hoisted aboard the helicopter and evacuated to the hospital at Boulogne.

The crews of the Arco Dijk and Thun Garland lauched their lifeboats, and they took on board several survivors each. The fishing vessel Parti De Rien retrieved several more of the migrants from the sea herself, and she transferred aboard all of the survivors who had been rescued by the two larger ships' lifeboats.     

Two crewmembers from the President Jacques Huret all-weather lifeboat also transferred to the Parti De Rien in order to carry out a medical assessment of the 33 survivors collected on board. With the lifeboat providing an escort, the Parti de Rien headed to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where the migrants were transferred to the custody of the border police and the local fire department.

Meanwhile, the Dauphin helicopter returned to the area, joined by HM Coastguard's Rescue 163 and the PSP Cormoran. Together they swept the site to ensure that there were no further personnel in difficulty. 

"The Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea warns anyone who plans to cross the Channel of the risks involved," cautioned regional directorate Premar Manche in a statement. "This maritime sector is one of the busiest areas in the world. The weather conditions are often difficult (120 days of wind greater than or equal to Force 7 on average annually), and it is therefore particularly dangerous."

Despite the risks, an unusually high numbers of migrants have attempted to cross the Channel from France to the UK in recent months, prompting concerns among the British public (and officials at the UK Home Office). The British government has rolled out new "pushback" measures intented to deter irregular maritime migration.