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Shipowners Reject Migrant Action Suggestions

migrant rescue

By MarEx 2015-10-14 18:53:36

Mainstream media is taking up the issue of how merchant shipping should involve itself in migrant rescue, and the Danish Shipowners’ Association is taking exception to the suggestions made.

In 2015 alone, Danish vessels rescued 2,660 distressed boat refugees in the Mediterranean. In 2014, privately owned ships were responsible for rescuing close to a third of all the migrants crossing the Mediterranean. 

However, shipowners refuse to accept any financial compensation from the E.U. for carrying out this important task.

A front page article in Danish newspaper Børsen claims that Danish shipping companies are not taking due responsibility in the Mediterranean. There is, however, no truth to this, says the Danish Shipowners’ Association, as, and as stated in the article, merchant marine this year alone saved 15,643 migrants in 137 rescue operations. 

Several members of the European Parliament's Transport Committee have recently put forward amendments in an own-initiative report on the situation in the Mediterranean to compensate the shipowners.

According to both the Danish Shipowners’ Association and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations, ECSA, this is the wrong approach: “We rescue people in distress at sea whether it is in the Mediterranean or elsewhere in the world, but merchant ships cannot be a part of the solution to the humanitarian crisis. The search and rescue operations are the Member States’ and Frontex’s sole remit. If some sort of financial compensation is introduced this task becomes commercial and will neither help those in need, nor the shipping companies”, says Director Maria Bruun Skipper, Danish Shipowners’ Association.

This position is shared by Jakob Paaske Larsen, Chairman of the ECSA Maritime Security Working Group and Global Security Manager for Maersk Line. He underlines that: “It would be a failure of the justice system if members of the European Pariliament (MEPs) begin to propose solutions to the humanitarian crisis that allows Member States to forgo their responsibility to find a solution for the problem, and instead impose a duty of care upon the merchant fleet, for which it is unfit.”

According to Børsen, in return for compensation MEPs believe that the shipowners should ensure that seafarers and their vessels are ready to handle the migrants on board their ships. They call on additional training for seafarers as well as new equipment on board. 

“We are also concerned with the call for better training of our seafarers,” says Larsen. “The proposal demonstrates a lack of understanding of the fact that merchant ships are unfit for this assignment in the long term. Again, the solution is not for our seafarers to have first aid training or for our ships to have extra emergency personnel on board. Our merchant navy cannot be part of a long-term solution to the humanitarian crisis. The only sustainable solution is for Frontex to receive the necessary resources to support merchant vessels that are present in the area, in the form of specialized vessels, as well as improved ability to rapidly support with medical care, security and necessary supplies.”