Rescue Vessel Packed with Refugees is Again Appealing for Help 

refugees in distress in the Mediterranean SOS Mediterranee NGO
One of the overloaded wooden boats Ocean Viking located in the Mediterranean (SOS Mediterranee Flavio Gasperini photo)

Published Aug 3, 2021 7:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the second time in a month, an NGO undertaking rescue missions for migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean is calling for help as the deck of its vessel is again packed with individuals it has rescued in the past few days. SOS Mediterranee said that it urgently needs to disembark 553 survivors who are experiencing high heat and unsafe conditions on the deck of its vessel. Last month Italy provided a safe port for the vessel which had 572 survivors aboard after it warned that it was running out of food and water.

Earlier today, the Ocean Viking, a 2,600 dwt tug chartered by the NGO for its rescue missions requested urgent assistance. The Italian coastguard responded to the call and took aboard a pregnant woman and her partner after it was determined that the woman required immediate medical attention. The NGO thanked the Italians while noting the vessel remains packed with the other survivors. 



Yesterday, the NGO Seawatch issued at least three additional mayday distress calls. They reported that at least three boats had been spotted and were believed to be in danger. In addition, three dinghies were believed to be in immediate danger.

The Ocean Viking’s current mission began on July 24 when the vessel departed Sicily to resume its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. The vessel had been in Sicily since July 9 when the Italian authorities responded to the prior urgent call for assistance. The vessel was permitted to dock in Augusta and offload 573 individuals that had been rescued in the first five days of July. After a two-day operation to land the refugees, the crew of the Ocean Viking underwent a 10-day quarantine.

After two unsuccessful searches, the Ocean Viking completed four rescues all on July 31 bringing aboard a total of 196 people. Later that same night, they undertook one of their largest rescues working in coordination with Seawatch and Resqship. A total of 449 survivors were taken from a large wooden boat that was taking on water and loaded aboard the Ocean Viking and SeaWatch3. On August 1, an additional 106 people were rescued from another wood boat that was also in distress.

The situation aboard the Ocean Viking was reported to be deteriorating as the vessel crammed with refugees has encountered increasing swells and stifling heat. Medical Team Leader Francisca issued a report saying, “Many are suffering from seasickness today. Some have fainted on our deck due to the heat and the ordeal they lived through. Some obtained injuries during the crossing, many suffer from body pain. We continue to assess, treat and monitor patients, but all survivors need to disembark in a place of safety as soon as possible.”

SOS Mediterranee and the Ocean Viking are once again requesting from the maritime authorities a place of safety to land the individuals that have been rescued in the past few days. The International Federation of the Red Cross joined with the NGO launching a campaign for support in mid-July, but the organizations continue to say that the international authorities need to agree to and support an organized rescue operation in the Mediterranean.