Three Migrants Stranded Aboard Maersk Etienne Jump Over the Side

maersk etienne
Maersk Etienne (MSF Sea)

Published Sep 6, 2020 8:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

According to Maersk Tankers, three of the rescued migrants who have been stranded on the product tanker Maersk Etienne for the past month jumped over the side on Sunday morning. The crew moved quickly and rescued them for a second time, and they are now "being given due care," the firm said. 

"We continue to plead for urgent humanitarian assistance for the 27 migrants stranded aboard," Maersk Tankers said in a statement. 

On August 4, Maersk Etienne responded to a call for assistance from a small boat about 70 nm north of Abu Kammash, Libya. Upon instruction from Maltese rescue coordination officials, the vessel took the boat's 27 occupants aboard and got under way for Malta. However, though the vessel was asked to conduct the rescue by Malta, Malta has not yet given it permission to disembark the rescuees. The survivors have now been on board the merchant vessel for more than a month. 

“Maersk Etienne is a chemical tanker which is not equipped neither constructed to keeping people onboard. This is a cargo vessel - the crew are professional seafarers and none of them is qualified for medical assistance or for care for rescued people,” said the vessel's master, Capt. Volodymyr Yeroshkin, in a video appeal released Friday. “We require immediate assistance. These people have to disembark as soon as possible."

Maersk Tankers' technical director, Tommy Thomassen, confirmed Thursday that the Maersk Etienne took on the rescue at the request of the Valletta Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Malta, despite the Maltese government's assertions that it had not initiated the action. In an interview with Italian outlet Il Manifesto, Thomassen said that diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation have not produced much in way of results. 

"We will always save people. I assure you. That's what every decent shipping company must do . . . But now we expect the authorities to do their duty too. As we did," Thomassen said. 

Migrant rescue NGOs like MSF Sea, Sea-Watch and Alarm Phone have condemned the Maltese government's inaction and called for the vessel to be allowed to berth. Alongside a strongly-worded message posted Saturday, Sea-Watch released a new video of Capt. Yeroshkin describing the situation on board (below). 

Malta moves to charter ferry for migrant housing

Meanwhile, the government of Malta is entering into negotiations with shipowner Walmar Marine to charter the ferry M/V Galaxy, an aging ro/pax ferry that could house up to 400 migrants, according to The Shift. Citing the urgency of the situation, Malta's Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB) has dismissed an objection from two other bidders, giving the nation's home affairs ministry permission to proceed with discussions. The proposed rate is about $1.2 million per month. 

Malta previously attempted to house migrants aboard locally-operated tour boats, but the initiative was ultimately scrapped due to unrest on board.