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Rescuing migrants is shipping’s 'iron-clad duty' say German Shipowners

Rescuing migrants is shipping’s 'iron-clad duty' say German Shipowners

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) has called for the EU to “massively expand” search and rescue (SAR) capacity in the Med, “without delay”.

Insisting that Mediterranean shipping can’t provide adequate SAR capacity, VDR has demanded that more state level aid be set aside from the German federal government and other EU member states.

“In the past several months our member companies have rescued over 5,000 refugees in distress in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Ralf Nagel, VDR ceo. “Merchant vessels are summoned by the Italian coast guard for rescue missions on a daily basis.

“In the process, our seafarers keep reaching their physical and mental limits. Refugees drown time and again before their eyes or die on board due to exposure. Despite all preparations, merchant vessels are not equipped for rescue and medical treatment of partly several hundreds of refugees.”

VDR welcomed the pledge by Rüdiger Kruse, maritime coordinator of the CDU/CSU faction in the German Bundestag, to earmark additional funding and adopt short-term measures to rescue migrants. Nagel said: “We explicitly wish to thank Rüdiger Kruse for his clear commitment to giving seafarers on merchant vessels relief by extending the scope of state resources for rescue missions.”

Referring to ongoing intergovernmental negotiations on the refugee crisis, Nagel continued: “We expect support from the German Bundestag as well as a clear mandate to Chancellor Merkel for tomorrow's EU summit meeting to expand safe and rescue operations by EU states massively in the Mediterranean Sea – and very soon."

Nagel pointed out that medical assistance was needed on rescue ships, and was withering about politicians’ suggestions that SAR efforts would only encourage human trafficking. "After all, rescuing people in danger of drowning is a legal and iron-clad duty for ship crews,” he said. “In doing so, we do not draw any distinction with regard to the origin of the people in distress and what their objectives are."

The news follows similar calls from IMO head Koji Sekimizu for “Safer, managed routes” for migrants, as well as for an “EU Mare Nostrum” from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). Head of European Community Shipowners Association Patrick Verhoeven yesterday said that more SAR funding was “the urgent and immediate priority”, before “thousands more people die.”

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