The Gibraltar Maritime Authority said it would terminate its registration licence to the Aquarius, a ship chartered by SOS Mediterranee, a European humanitarian organization engaged in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.
The authority said the decision was made after it was determined that the ship had breached the registry’s terms since it was registered as a “survey”, not a “rescue” ship.
Responding to the move, SOS Mediterranee said that as a charterer of the ship, which is jointly operated with Médecins sans Frontières, it has satisfied all regulatory requests over the past two years arising from the competencies of the Gibraltar Flag State.
“All technical controls regarding security and safety of the ship were met. No deficiencies were ever reported,” the organization said, adding the authority was “disguising a political manoeuvre behind an incoherent argument.”
SOS Mediterranee further added that the argument that clearance should be obtained in order to conduct rescue operations was contrary to the overreaching principle of rescue at sea “which falls upon all flags, all ships and on all seas.”
The organization also stressed that there was no technical difference between the two vessel categories and that the Gibraltar Maritime Authority itself has registered the Aquarius as a SAR vessel with the International Maritime Organisation.
The announcement is being made as the rescue ship is yet again stranded at sea after both Italy and Malta refused to provide refuge to 141 migrants on board the ship.
— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) August 13, 2018
The Aquarius has conducted more than 200 search and rescue (SAR) operations over the last two and half years, based on the organization’s data.