Rescue of refugees at sea

IMO – in partnership with UNHCR has issued a guide for those at sea who may be called upon to assist refugees or migrants. I have spoken informally to a number of tanker owners who collectively handled over 5,000 refugees in the last four months of 2014 - almost exclusively rescued in the southern Mediterranean. This occasionally makes the international press, but as usual lives in peril at sea are of less interest than oil soaked puffins. This has place considerable financial pressure on coast state authorities in southern Europe, some of whom who have helpfully withdrawn patrols and support, leaving seafarers – who have obligations under SOLAS, to render assistance. Modern communications mean persons in distress can usually be located fairly promptly, but prompt post-rescue disembarkation may be delayed if the Captain is not prepared. This document will I hope be a word to the wise.

For those on board Watkins' managed boats, Captains are reminded of their obligations to render assistance under the 1974 SOLAS Convention*, their overriding authority in this matter and to make contact with the Company at the earliest opportunity, but not to delay in assisting by doing so. Please ensure that all crewmembers are given an opportunity to read this. Please confirm so in your next HESS meeting minutes. I can be contacted at any time if anyone has any questions. We would welcome any feedback of course, and would be pleased to circulate any comments.

(*Interestingly, the very same convention requires coast states to make similar provisions.)