Aquarius Gets Permission to Disembark Migrants in Malta

AquariusImage Courtesy: Guglielmo Mangiapane / SOS MEDITERRANEE

The 141 migrants, that have been stranded aboard the rescue ship Aquarius, will disembark the vessel as Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Luxembourg agreed to share responsibility in a coordinated European response.

Italy and Malta initially refused entry to the vessel, which rescued the refugees and migrants in two separate missions off the Libyan coast on August 10. A formal permission to enter Maltese territorial waters was granted to the vessel on August 14.

The Aquarius, chartered by SOS Mediterranee, a European humanitarian organization engaged in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean, is now proceeding towards the port of La Valletta where the rescued people will finally disembark after being stranded for 5 days.

Namely, Spain and Portugal will accept the majority of the migrants, while the remainder would be distributed between the other three countries.

“Malta will be making a concession allowing the vessel to enter its ports, despite having no legal obligation to do so,” the Government of Malta informed.

The latest decision was made on the back of the June incident when the Aquarius was stranded for days at sea with 630 migrants aboard until the Spanish government opened its ports, allowing the vessel to dock in Valencia.

Earlier this week, the Gibraltar Maritime Authority informed that it would terminate its registration licence to the Aquarius as it 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.

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.

World Maritime News Staff

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