ICS Calls for Action on Maersk Etienne Standoff

maersk etienne maersk tankers
Maersk Etienne taking the survivors aboard, August 4 (Maersk Tankers)

Published Sep 7, 2020 2:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Chamber of Shipping has joined two UN organizations in calling for the safe disembarkation of 27 migrants aboard the tanker Maersk Etienne, which has been anchored and waiting off the coast of Malta since early August. The situation aboard Maersk Etienne has continued for 35 days, marking a new record for rescuees stranded aboard a merchant ship.

“The conditions are rapidly deteriorating onboard, and we can no longer sit by while governments ignore the plight of these people,” said Guy Platten, ICS' secretary general. “This is not the first time that this has happened, and we need governments to live up to their obligations. Time is running out and the responsibility for these people’s safety and security rests squarely with government ministers. This is not COVID related; this is a humanitarian issue pure and simple.”

UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), its migration agency, have both joined the call for a solution to the situation aboard Maersk Etienne. 

“The absence of a clear, safe, and predictable disembarkation mechanism for people rescued in the Mediterranean, continues to pose avoidable risk to life,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. “IOM and UNHCR have long called on states to move away from the current ad hoc approach and establish a scheme whereby coastal states take equal responsibility in providing a port of safety, followed by a show of solidarity from other EU member states.”

Together, the agencies have appealed to regional governments to arrange for the rescuees to disembark Maersk Etienne. ICS also called on the IMO to intervene, asking for the world's top maritime regulator to “send a clear message that states must ensure that maritime search and rescue incidents are resolved in accordance with the letter and spirit of international law.”

On Sunday morning, three of the rescuees aboard the Maersk Etienne jumped overboard in desperation, Maersk Tankers reported. The crew moved quickly and rescued them for a second time, and they are now "being given due care," the firm said. The vessel's master, Capt. Volodymyr Yeroshkin, has described an increasingly challenging situation on board, both for the crew and for the survivors.