Vessel inspection ‘double standard’ by Dutch Authorities – Sea Watch

Christmas on the Sea-Watch 3. The ship is prepared to accommodate people the first hours after a rescue. To keep rescued people hostage at sea for days, however, is a violation of the law of the sea, committed by European governments. (Photo: Chris Grodotzki / Sea-Watch)

Migrant Search and Rescue NGO, Sea Watch, has called today’s inspection of its Sea Watch 3 vessel for long operations at sea, a double standard by the Dutch Authorities.

The NGO states that the inspection, which is aimed at assessing Sea Watch 3’s ability to cope with accommodating ‘rescued people for longer periods of time’, is unfair given the fact the national authorities’ own vessels are not built for this.

NH-1816 Dutch Sea Rescue vessel

They state that the NH-1816 vessels currently operated by the Dutch sea rescue service are themselves not built to sustain rescued people for an extended period of time.

Sea Watch therefore deems the inspection, which is understood to be the ‘second extensive flag state inspection within less than a year’ is aimed at finding ‘a reason to shut down one of the last and most effective rescue assets at sea’, Johannes Bayer, Sea Watch’s chairman said.

Added to these facts surrounding the vessels, is the fact that maritime law does not intend for rescued people to be stranded at sea.

No floating hotel

The NGO states that according to the law of the sea, people rescued must be ‘brought to a place of safety as soon as possible’ and the vessel is prepared to cope with the transit to a safe port.  But, when European governments forced migrants to remain on vessels for a length of time, it is a violation of the law, they state.

‘Our ship is ready and highly equipped to render assistance to people in distress, but we are no floating hotel’, Bayer said, adding,‘Our duty, as of any other vessel, is to rescue people in maritime distress and to bring them to a place of safety as fast as possible. With our ship, such place can be reached in a short time from any position on the Mediterranean, and that is what we are equipped for. It was the European governments who repeatedly delayed the disembarkation of rescued people for far too long, not us. They force us to accommodate people for weeks and then blame us for not being a hotel.’