Maersk Product Tanker Saves 23 Migrants

Migrants aboard the Iuventa, with Maersk Erin in background (SOS Mediterranee)

By The Maritime Executive 2016-11-16 21:24:21

On Monday, the product tanker Maersk Erin saved 23 migrants from a capsized rubber boat in the seas off Libya. 100 remain missing, and the rescue vessel Iuventa, a repurposed fishing boat run by a youth non-profit in Berlin, was on scene to participate in a search effort. 

As of Wednesday, the Maersk Erin was anchored near a refinery at Al Zawiyah, Libya, her planned destination. 

Authorities estimate that this week's death toll for Mediterranean migrant crossings stands at about 240, bringing fatalities to 4,500 for the year through November – a new record, up 20 percent from the same period in 2015.

Successful arrivals on the North Africa to Italy route have reached about 165,000 since January. Transits from Turkey to Greece have tailed off sharply following a new EU enforcement and deportation program. 

Aid officials and NGOs say that migrants face greater dangers now that Libyan human smugglers have switched to the use of rubber dinghies. Overloaded wooden fishing boats could flood, founder or capsize, but they were never in danger of deflating. The new dinghies, however, are liable to tears and punctures – and they now account for two thirds of the smugglers' boats, according to Migrant Report.

Earlier this year, Wikileaks released an internal EU intelligence report on Libyan smugglers' purchases of large rubber dinghies from Chinese suppliers. A containerload of the inflatable boats was intercepted in Malta in February, but authorities had to release it to its Libyan BCO as there was no legal basis for confiscating it. 

30-foot inflatables are available from a variety of Chinese manufacturers for roughly $1000 each (not including shipping). Libyan smugglers told The Guardian that fares for migrants run from $800 to $2,500 depending on their nationality and ability to pay.