ONBOARD SOS MEDITERRANEE Activities and observations of our rescue ship in the Central Mediterranean

SAR Operations in the central Mediterranean

The ship

The Ocean Viking is a cargo vessel. The ship is chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with MSF.

It was originally conceived for mass rescues, as an Emergency Response and Rescue Vessel (ERRV) (a stand-by offshore vessel ready for rescuing a large number of passengers and taking care of a large number of people in case of mass casualties). It is 69.3m in length over all x 15.5m beam. It was built in 1986 and has a gross tonnage of 2075.

The ship is owned by Hoyland Offshore AS. The flag state registry is Norway. It used to be an offshore supply and rescue ship for oil and gas industry in the North Sea, mainly in the Norwegian sector.

It is very robust and stable as it was built for the harsh conditions in the North Sea. Its maximum speed is 14 knots and it can maneuver quickly with bow, stern and an additional azimuth thruster under the bow.

The ship has:

– One davit-launched fast rescue craft (FRC SOLAS);

– Two davit-launched fast rescue boats (RHIB-type);

– One crane-launched fast rescue boat (RHIB-type);

– One inflatable rescue boat.

Davits allow for quick and safe deployment of rescue boats while underway.

SAR operations onboard the Ocean Viking were launched in August 2019. Previously, from February 2016 to December 2018, SOS MEDITERRANEE chartered the 77 meter long special purpose ship Aquarius, built in 1977 and owned by the shipping company Jasmund Shipping. Operated in partnership with MSF, the Aquarius rescued 29’523 people in distress.

The crew onboard

The crew members are professional staff and consist of 3 teams.

A search and rescue (SAR) team of 13 members from SOS MEDITERRANEE, including:

– 9 SAR Team members, including a logistician, a mechanic engineer, RHIB drivers and a deck leader;

– 1 search and rescue coordinator;

– 1 deputy search and rescue coordinator;

– 1 communications officer;

– 1 research and evidence officer.

A medical team of 9 members from Médecins Sans Frontières, including:

– 1 project coordinator;

– 1 doctor;

– 2 nurses;

– 1 midwife;

– 1 logistician;

– 1 cultural mediator;

– 1 humanitarian affairs officer;

– 1 field communications manager.

A marine crew of 9 members who are employed by the ship-owner.


SOS MEDITERRANEE is a European maritime and humanitarian organization for the rescue of life in the Mediterranean. It was founded by citizens in May 2015 in response to the deaths in the Mediterranean and the failure of the European Union to prevent these deaths.

SOS MEDITERRANEE works as a European association with teams in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland in a European network, jointly financing and operating a rescue ship. From February 2016 to December 2018, SOS MEDITERRANEE chartered and operated the rescue ship Aquarius, with which it provided assistance to 29’523 people in distress in international waters between Italy, Malta and Libya. The medical care was provided by Doctors without Borders since from May 2016 to December 2018.

After 7 months of research and equipment, SOS MEDITERRANEE has now resumed its SAR operations with a new ship, the Ocean Viking, operated in partnership with MSF.

Our mission:

        – Saving lives: Rescuing people from distress at sea and providing emergency medical treatment on board.

        – Protect and assist: Providing medical care and first psychological support to the rescued people on board.

        – Testify: Giving the rescued people a voice. Showing the many faces of migration. Informing the European public about the situation for people in distress in the Mediterranean and commemorate those that never arrived.

Our guiding principles

SOS MEDITERRANEE is based on the respect for human beings and their dignity, without partiality as concerns their nationality or origin, their social belonging, religious belief, political position or ethnic identity.

Our charter

Faced with repeated shipwrecks of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, considering that there is no adequate search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea to help migrants and refugees in distress in an efficient, appropriate and lasting manner, as citizens convinced that human rights apply to everyone, we are calling for a large-scale mobilization based on civil society coming together to save people in distress in the central Mediterranean Sea.

Download the Charter of SOS MEDITERRANEE

MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES (Doctors without borders)

MSF started its search and rescue activities in 2015 after the Italian Search and Rescue operation called „Mare Nostrum“ was terminated.

MSF provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. MSF teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistics and administrative staff – bound together by a common charter.  MSF‘s actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence, and neutrality. We are a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organization.

MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors. Today, we are a worldwide movement of more than 42,000 people. All of its members agree to honor the following principles:

– MSF provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.

– MSF observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance and claims full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.

– Members undertake to respect their professional code of ethics and maintain complete independence from all political, economic or religious powers.

– As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the missions they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation other than that which the association might be able to afford them.

Download here the International Activity Report 2017 of MSF