I am looking to talk to anyone who has had encounters with migrants at sea to learn from your experience.
Two activists are being put on trial in Greece
for rescuing migrants at sea. This seems to contravene the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and rendering assistance is something seafarers have held sacred since ships began sailing. I am researching this issue to compile a set of Best Practices around this topic. We've all seen the clips of migrants in sorry state after being set adrift by ruthless human traffickers. There have also been cases cited where pirates have used migrants to lure merchant vessels which they planned to attack. It's a terrible conundrum that is likely to get worse as climate change forces mass migrations.
From conversations I've had with Coast Guard members in various states, the general recommendation is not to take anyone aboard your vessel, but rather to call the Coast Guard to report the situation. Let them tell you what they want you to do. CG vessels and helicopters are fast enough to effect rescues. You can then stand by until the CG arrives.
They've also told me that taking migrants on board can be interpreted in some states as assisting in human trafficking. In fact, there was a big backlash against the RNLI for rescuing migrants off the coast of GB. The RNLI had to issue statements
about the humanitarian nature of their work.
Please let me know if you have any experience in this area.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Duty to render assistance
1. Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far
as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers:
(a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of
(b) to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in
distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such
action may reasonably be expected of him;
(c) after a collision, to render assistance to the other ship, its crew
and its passengers and, where possible, to inform the other ship
of the name of his own ship, its port of registry and the nearest
port at which it will call.
2. Every coastal State shall promote the establishment, operation and
maintenance of an adequate and effective search and rescue service regarding
safety on and over the sea and, where circumstances so require, by way of
mutual regional arrangements cooperate with neighbouring States for this
Vice Commodore, OCC