Sea Watch Newsletter

(Text Translated from German)

Dear friends of Sea-Watch at sea and at land,

It has finally happened: On World Refugee Day, the 20th of June 2015, the “Sea Watch” departed for its first deployment from Lampedusa into the direction of the Libyan coast. It was not even 24 hours later when the first emergency call reached the vessel.

The MS “Sea-Watch” took part in three so-called “Search and Rescue” operations in total during its first deployment which was assigned to it by the Italian MRCC (Mediteranian Rescue Coordination Center) and in which over a thousand refugees could be rescued.

Even if the deployment was postponed several times, we are very proud that we could realise the project “Sea-Watch” within half a year from the idea to the first deployment.

Observations and experiences during the first deployment 

Last week has shown that we are on the right track. The MS Sea Watch may not be a conventional salvage vessel. It has however been shown that it does constitute an important and sensible supplement.

The vessel is equipped with a very good communication system, for instance a satellite system. This was used to enable the communication between the freighter MS Isabelle and the coastguard and the ship company of the MS “Sea-Watch”. We could contribute to the smooth salvation of over a hundred refugees on board of the MS Isabelle in this way.

The commander of the coastguard in Lampedusa was delighted by the fact that the “Sea-Watch” sets sail with a professional nautical as well as a medical team on board. For example, if a medical emergency took place on one of the commercial vessels which perform the majority of the salvage operations, the medical staff of the Sea Watch can be there with a high-speed vessel very fast. The “Sea-Watch” accordingly represents an important resource to the coastguard also.

Advantages of our high-speed vessel 

The positions in which refugee boats are reported are often very inaccurate. We can use our high-speed boat in these situations to drive along search grids and thereby spot the boats. The first pull-out has shown that the Sea-Watch has a big potential that will be further developed during the now following deployments.

What the first deployment has shown 

At the same time, the first deployment has again shown that the role of the MS “Sea-Watch” as a swimming eye at sea fulfils an important purpose. As soon as the MS Sea Watch took turn into the direction of a boat in distress, the coastguard also started moving. We suppose that our presence alone triggers a pressure to act for the authorities responsible for the salvation.

We additionally face the escalation of the situation right by the Libyan coast induced by the European Union and the military action against tug boats that is possibly contrary to international law. We were the only civilian salvage vessel in front of the Libyan coast, the vessels of “Doctors without Borders” and MOAS were at the port after their deployments at this point. At the same time, the local situation is tense: the night before the 24th of June 2015, the MS Sea Watch was ordered to change its course by a military vessel that did not reveal its identity.

MS “Sea-Watch” as an observer, reporter of possible military action

We consider it of utmost importance that the civil society – particularly with regards to a possible military escalation – has independent observers in the Mediterranean Sea. This is because we are not focused on self-portrayal and creating a “Hotel Big Brother” at sea as Harald Höppner suggested in an interview with the German magazine “Tagesspiegel”.

We are focused on the situation in the Mediterranean! The point is that nobody should die anymore and that there must be ways for migrants to come to the European Union without risking their lives. Now more than ever! 

We would like to cordially thank the first crew who went on the first deployment without really knowing what would expect them and wish the second crew all the best and [English phrase for “Good luck” as a seafarer’s expression] for the second deployment in the beginning of July.

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