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'Be prepared' for more migrant rescues warns North P&I

'Be prepared' for more migrant rescues warns North P&I
North P&I Club has warned that shipowners must “be prepared” for more rescues of migrants at sea.

The Club told its members there are "security, legal, health and safety issues" to consider for vessels transiting the Mediterranean, with suggested measures including regular drills covering large-scale rescues, incoroporating plans for accommodating and disembarking rescuees.  

“The number of unsafe sea crossings attempted by refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants is growing rapidly, with around 350,000 people risking such journeys worldwide in 2014,” said Tony Baker, head of loss prevention at North. “Of these over 4,500 are estimated to have died in the attempt. In 2015, more than 1,700 have already died in just the Mediterranean.”

“While merchant ships are not generally designed for rescuing large numbers of people at sea, their owners and operators may find themselves in a situation where they are morally and legally bound to do so. Some of the costs incurred may be covered by their P&I clubs. Such rescues are potentially fraught with difficulty so it is vital that shipowners have proper procedures in place to prevent a rescue situation spiralling out of control.”

Baker added that unpreparedness for large-scale rescue operations could lead to myriad difficulties, dangers and uninsured costs for those involved.

Last week, the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) said that its seafarers were “reaching their physical and mental limits” and that pulling migrants from the water was by no means the only consideration. According to ceo Ralf Nagel, as well as drowning, “Refugees [frequently] die on board due to exposure… despite all preparations.”

The news follows at least 700 migrant deaths last weekend.