The survey has been completed, leading Aquarius to set sail in fulfillment of Panama’s regulation requirements. The official name of Aquarius is now “Aquarius 2” as “Aquarius” was already taken in the Panama register.
Aquarius leaves Marseille after an extended port call
To arrange disembarkation as soon as reasonably practicable.
According to Maritime conventions and resolutions,
Upon the declaration of a distress phase, a RCC shall initiate “search and rescue operations when the position of the search object is unknown” (SAR Convention, art. 4.5.4).
As soon as the RCC responsible for a SRR in which assistance is needed is informed about a distress situation, it “should immediately accept responsibility for coordinating the rescue efforts” (MSC.167(78), art 6.7).
RCCs “should be prepared to act quickly on their own, or have processes in place, as necessary, to involve other authorities, so that timely decisions can be reached with regard to handling of survivors” (MSC.167(78), art 6.4).
A RCC “should make every effort to minimize the time survivors remain on board the assisting ship” (MSC.167(78), art 6.8).
A RCC “shall have available up-to-date information especially concerning search and rescue facilities and available communications relevant to search and rescue operations in its area” (SAR Convention, art 4.2.1).
Upon entering the Libyan Search and Rescue Region, Aquarius sends a notice to the Libyan JRCC, informing of the vessel’s readiness to conduct SAR operations. Italian MRCC, Maltese MRCC, Tunisian MRCC and EUNAVFOR Med are also informed. Aquarius additionally provides the vessel’s technical specifications.
“MV AQUARIUS declares readiness for SAR operations in the Central Mediterranean Sea, south of Lampedusa and Malta, outside of Libyan Territorial Waters.
Actual position: 34-13.0N 012-10.6
Proceeding with course 170 speed 10.7 kts towards patrol area ca. 25 NM off Libyan coast between Long. of Zuwarah and Zawiya”
According to the SAR Convention (1979), all information concerning a vessel in distress will be forwarded to the rescue co-ordination center concerned.
Chapter 4: Operating procedures
4.2.3 Any authority or element of the search and rescue service having reason to believe that a person, a vessel or other craft is in a state of emergency shall forward as soon as possible all available information to the rescue co-ordination centre or rescue sub-centre concerned.
According to theSOLAS Conventionsearch and rescue units should proceed immediately to the distress event and inform the relevant rescue co-ordination centre.
Regulation 33: “Any search and rescue unit receiving information of a distress incident shall initially take immediate action if in the position to assist and shall, in any case without delay, notify the rescue co-ordination centre or rescue subcentre in whose area the incident has occurred”.
Aquarius sends email to Libyan JRCC, ITMRCC, Maltese RCC and MRCC Tunisia informing about rescue operation
“While patrolling M/V Aquarius2 investigated a boat in position 33-28.6N 011-58.1Eat 0600Z. I am reporting to you that the situation is assessed as highly dangerous for the people on board.
It is a small white boat fiber glass boat with approximately 10 people on board.
I have every reason to believe that the Distress phase exists, because the target is an unseaworthy boat, without any life-saving appliance such as lifejacket or liferaft. According to the sailing conditions and the weather conditions, I have every reason to believe that the people in distress are already weak, sick and potentially injured.
I am currently deploying the fast rescue crafts.
As per the UNCLOS, SOLAS and SAR Conventions, I therefore inform you that M/V Aquarius 2 will provide immediate assistance to these people in distress and rescue them without delay. My ship has the capacity to recover all of the people, to provide medical care and to transfer them to a place of safety in a reasonable period of time.
I will keep you informed as soon as I have more information.”
Aquarius informs Libyan JRCC, ITMRCC and RCC Malta by email that it cannot proceed to transfer due to Libyan ports not conforming to the definition of places of safety.
Please be informed that following the assessment of the situation, and because of the necessity to provide immediate assistance without delay to the people in distress, I have performed the rescue of the SAR Case. I am currently patrolling with  survivors on board, under medical care. Most of the survivors are physically or mentally deeply traumatized.
Libyan Coast Guard requested us to transfer the survivors to their vessel to bring them to a Libyan port. I have all the reason to believe that none of the Libyan ports are a place of safety for the survivors. I also have all reason to believe that a transfer operation would jeopardize the safety of the rescued people and my crew because of a risk of panic.
Libyan JRCC answers Aquarius by email and requests that Aquarius contact another MRCC or its Flag State.
Following your email, where you assess that “none of the Libyan ports are a place of safety for the survivors”, and considered that you don’t want to cooperate with Libyan Coast Guard, as Authority coordinating SAR operation in area.
Considering, also, that we don’t received a distress call, but you took these people, independently without any order from LCG.
Now I kindly suggest to you to contact another MRCC or your Flag State.
Aquarius confirms good receipt of Libyan JRCC’s previous message and informs it will contact other competent authorities to request a place of safety
Aquarius confirms good receipt of Libyan JRCC’s previous message and informs it will contact other competent authorities to request a place of safety. Aquarius reasserts that it attempted to establish contact with JRCC by several means before launching rescue operation.
Your last email is well noted and we will contact other competent authorities. As per our other emails we did try to inform JRCC Tripoli about the boat in distress, via phone, email and VHF (see the attached SITREP) but we were unable to establish contact. For the safety of everyone on the fibreglass boat we carried out a rescue immediately as per maritime law in order to prevent loss of life at sea. For the time being, we will remain in the area in international waters and continue to inform this RCC about any SAR activity, as the competent maritime authority for the region. We are awaiting a place of safety. Any assistance that JRCC Tripoli can offer in facilitating quick disembarkation for the recued people in a place of safety is appreciated.”
Aquarius requests place of safety to ITMRCC and RCC Malta
Aquarius 2 would like to request a place of safety for the disembarkation of the 11 rescued people from today’s rescue in the Libyan SRR. This RCC has been in copy of all the emails between JRCC Libya , Aquarius 2, and I am sure you are aware that JRCC Libya has asked Aquarius 2 to contact another MRCC to provide assistance. I thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide in finding a solution for a prompt disembarkation at a place of safety.
Italian MRCC responds to Aquarius that it will not provide a Place of Safety
Please be informed that the Aquarius 2 conducted a SAR event within the Libyan SRR two days ago on the 20th of September. Initially, after identifying a boat in distress we tried to contact the JRCC Libya via phone, VHF and email without success. The first and only RCC that responded prior and during the rescue was the Italian MRCC. They informed us that they would refuse coordination and would contact the Libyan authorities leaving the Aquarius 2 without help. Later and shortly after the call with the Italian maritime authorities, the Aquarius 2 received an email from the Libyan Navy Coast Guard requesting that we rendezvous bordering Libyan territorial waters with a patrol boat to disembark the 11 survivors on-board. This would clearly have meant the return of these people to Libya. Considering the determinations of multiple international bodies Libya cannot be considered as a Place of Safety (POS). In response to this information, the Libyan Navy Coast Guard kindly suggested that we contact other MRCCs.
In the Interim, Malta has informed us “that it is neither the appropriate nor the competent authority to provide [the survivors on the Aquarius] with a place of safety.” The last communication with the IMRCC stated that: “Italian authorities will not provide POS in Italy because the SAR case was not coordinated by the Italian MRCC.” As you know in your expertise, from the IMO annex 34 adopted in 2004 other RCCs are to be contacted for assistance if difficulties arise. Although it is the responsibility of an RCC to either ensure the prompt provision of a POS or involve other authorities, we are concerned that you may not have been contacted. In light of this concern, we felt it advisable to share these troubling events with you and seek guidance in your roles as competent RCCs.
See attached the full situation report and details regarding the rescue. Further information can also be gathered at onboard-aquarius.org.
The situation on board is stable for the time being and our medical team (2 doctors, 2 nurses and 1 midwife) continue to treat the 11 survivors. While waiting for a POS we remain in International waters and will continue to respond if any maritime distress situation occurs in full respect of international maritime law.
Please acknowledge receipt of this email at your earliest convenience.
Aquarius receives Iridium phone call signalling distress at sea
Aquarius receives Iridium phone call from NGO Alarm Phone, speaking of a wooden boat carrying approximately 50 people heading North from Zuwara, including 20 women, taking on water. The boat is reportedly in position 33°05’0N, 012°12’5 E. Aquarius is in position 33°36’3 N, 011°57’5 E.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to report case and gives position of boat in distress
Aquarius informs ITMRCC of the call from Alarm Phone signaling the distress case of a wooden boat containing approx. 50 people. The boat is 30 NM miles south of Aquarius. Aquarius gives ITMRCC its current position 33°36.1N, 011°57.6E. Aquarius informs it has tried contacting JRCC Tripoli, Interim 24h. ITMRCC says it will contact the Libyan Coast Guard and asks Aquarius to contact the Libyan authorities again.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC informing that it has still not managed to establish contact with JRCC Tripoli
Call to ITMRCC, informing that Aquarius still has not managed to establish contact with JRCC Tripoli. ITMRCC informs that Aquarius can contact ‘Patrol boat Al Khifa’ for instructions on how to proceed. Aquarius confirms receipt of information and indicates it will continue informing ITMRCC until Libyan authorities take coordination of the event.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC and informs about JRCC Tripoli not responding. ITMRCC refer to LCG Patrol boat ‘al-Khifa’
Aquarius calls ITMRCC and informs about JRCC Tripoli not responding. ITMRCC replies : “I can only confirm to you that Patrol boat Al Khifa is proceeding to the position of the migrants. You have to try again to contact them on VHF. We have asked to (the) patrol boat to contact you and asked the patrol boat for instructions for you”
LCG calls Aquarius and Patrol boat al Khifa states that it is the on-scene commander.
Libyan Coast Guard calls on VHFchannel 16, requesting Aquarius’ position. Aquarius provides position: 33°28’4 N, 012°04’4 E. Patrol boat al-Kifha says that it is around 30 NM from Aquarius and is heading towards Aquarius’ position. Patrol boat al-Khifa states that it is the on-scene commander.
Email from Aquarius to ITMRCC and JRCC Tripoli confirming that Aquarius has had contact with Patrol boat Al Khifa.
Email from Aquarius to ITMRCC and JRCC Tripoli confirming that Aquarius has had contact with Patrol boat Al Khifa. Aquarius informs that it will continue to inform Patrol boat Al Khifa on the unfolding on events.
Call on VHF to Patrol boat Al Khifa. Patrol boat al Khifa responds. Aquarius informs that it is altering to the south to conduct a search pattern. Patrol boat Al Khifa gives green light to conduct search pattern. Patrol boat Al Khifa is 3 NM from Aquarius’ stern.
Aquarius calls Patrol boat Al Khifa via VHF. Patrol boat Al Khifa responds. Aquarius informs about investigation of potential target. Aquarius states there are around 50-60 people, 14 women, no injured people, pregnant women on-board
Aquarius asks Patrol boat al Khifa for permission to stabilize
In a situation of distressl, according to international maritime law, a vessel must proceed as fast as possible to the scene of distress. Therefore, Aquarius explains it cannot move 5 miles away as people are currently in distress and need to be assisted.
Aquarius calls LCG requesting that women and children can be disembarked to Aquarius. Patrol boat Al Khifa reaches out but the communication is broken. Aquarius reiterates that it wishes things to slow down for the time being to Patrol boat Al Khifa , maintaining that “we understand your instructions”.
LCG threatens Aquarius and Aquarius requests further instructions
LCG calls Aquarius and threatens Aquarius. Patrol Boat al Khifa asks if Aquarius would like to visit Tripoli: “good morning, did you speak to ???, have you been in Tripoli town before? What do you think if you go to Tripoli there? Staying there one or two weeks with us? How would you like to go to Tripoli?”.
Aquarius replies it would like to solve this problem now, in a safe manner for everybody. Aquarius further asks Patrol boat Al Khifa for instructions as to what to do. LCG asks Aquarius to go 15 NM away from the distress scene. Aquarius requests to be allowed to bring sick women and children who are on the RHIB onto Aquarius.
LCG says to take all people but continues to threaten
LCG accuses Aquarius of not cooperating “take all the people because I cannot make a separation with families, that is a big problem with me” (repeated 3 times). Aquarius asks Patrol boat al Kifha to confirm instruction in Arabic
Patrol boat Al Khifa says “do not take the people. You guys have not obeyed our instructions. We were very clear with you. We asked you to keep a distance. We are recording everything that is being said. We told you not to interact with people. You are trying to pull people out into Europe”. LCG reiterates “as usual you are not listening to our instructions, you acted without listening to our instructions”
Patrol boat Al Khifa asks who gave Aquarius these instructions. He adds “you did not comply with our instructions. We told you to observe without interacting with the migrants. We do not want further cooperation with you. As usual, you didn’t listen. We are going to approach and tell you what to do”
LCG calls Aquarius and says it should stay 80 NM from the shore, otherwise they could face legal action in Tripoli. Patrol boat Al Khifa says to Aquarius “you made a big problem, we are not able to take the people onboard because you started taking people. So we will leave the situation to you. You will then immediately go away from the Libyan coast at 94NM, you have disrupted operations in this area, you are not welcome here”.
Aquarius sends email to JRCC Tripoli and ITMRCC updating them about the completion of the rescue of 47 people. Aquarius updates them of the medical state of the survivors and gives them breakdown of nationalities
Aquarius addresses coordination request to Spanish and French MRCCs
Aquarius informs Spanish and French MRCCs about the completion of the rescue of the morning of the 23 September. Aquarius updates authorities that there are currently 58 survivors onboard (taking into account the 11 survivors from the rescue of the 20 September), and requests coordination for the search and rescue event.
INMARSAT alarm to all ships signaling the distress of a boat of 100 people, reported to be sinking north al Khoms
INMARSAT alarm to all ships signaling the distress of a boat of 100 people, reported to be sinking north of al Khoms at the last known position of 33 14 N, 014 08 E, at 17h35. Message says to contact JRCC Libya via IMRCC Rome.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to enquire about INMARSAT message
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to enquire about INMARSAT message. Aquarius is 100 NM away form position of distress. Aquarius informs that it already tried contacting JRCC but without success. Aquarius 34°27’5 N 012°37’7.
Aquarius sends email to ITMRCC and JRCC Tripoli to inform that it will proceed to the boat in distress
Aquarius sends email to ITMRCC and JRCC Tripoli to inform that it will proceed to the boat in distress, signaled by the INMARSAT message. Aquarius provides ETA and current position.
Aquarius received inmarsat C distress alert from JRCC Libya via ITMRCC for boat in distress, sinking, at pos. 33-14N 014-08E with approx. 100pax on board. Aquarius has informed ITMRCC via phone that Aquarius is responding. Aquarius current pos. is 34-27.4N 012-38.6E. We are currently going to max. speed. ETA 0130Z 24Sep. Aquarius will be standing by for any updates and instructions from either RCC.
Aquarius overhears Italian Military Aircraft urging merchant ship to divert to the boat in distress
Aquarius overhears Italian Military Aircraft calling merchant ship on channel 16, giving it orders to divert to position 33°12’ N, 014°03’8 E, the position of the boat in distress. Italian military aircraft informs it is a rubber boat with approx. 50 people and it urgently needs assistance. The aircraft informs it has shot one SAR kit from their aircraft. The merchant ship confirms it will need 4 hours to reach the requested position.
INMARSAT distress alert is sent out again concerning the sinking boat of 100 people
INMARSATdistress alert is sent to all ships containing same information about a sinking boat containing approx. 100 people and requesting all ships in the area to proceed immediately to the position provided.
ITMRCC informs Aquarius that the LCG has intercepted this distress case but is unable to provide more details
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to inform it is 1.8 NM from distress scene and ask for more information. ITMRCC replies that this SAR event is under the coordination of Libyan coast guard. Aquarius says it is impossible to contact JRCC Tripoli and on the INMARSAT message it says to contact JRCC via ITMRCC on this number. ITMRCC says that the Libyan coast guard intercepted the people from the rubber boat but that they have no other information, “but the LCG rescued all the people”.
Aquarius says its most updated information is about an Italian military aircraft dropping SAR kits and reporting bodies in the water. ITMRCC replies this case is under responsibility of the Libyan JRCC.
Aquarius repeats that the INMARSAT message indicates to contact the JRCC Libya via the ITMRCC. Aquarius repeats that contact with JRCC Tripoli is impossible and that it was confirmed with the ITMRCC duty officer earlier to proceed to the distress scene despite the distance Aquarius would need to cover. ITMRCC says that the LCG rescued the people, but that it is unclear how many people. ITMRCC is unable to confirm that there have been no deaths.
Aquarius starts search pattern at position 33°14’ N, 014°07’1 E
At present, the Aquarius 2 is heading north with 58 survivors aboard. We acknowledge your past responses. As the two RCCs best situated we are requesting again help in finding a place of safety as soon as possible for the wellbeing of the survivors on board the Aquarius 2.
Malta informs it will not provide a Place of Safety
Maritime patrol aircraft on channel 16 calls *** **** twice with no response
Maritime patrol aircraft calls “any vessel in the vicinity” on channel 16
Aquarius responds. Maritime patrol aircraft says that they are trying to contract *** **** who should be in the vicinity of a rubber boat in distress and tasked to conduct a rescue by MRCC but cannot be located. Maritime Patrol aircraft asks Aquarius if they have had contact with *** ****. Aquarius replies negative. The position of the rubber boat in distress is 33°35’4N, 012°27’E and it is heading north at a speed of 5 to 6 knots. 50 NM from Aquarius’ current position.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC requesting for coordination of SAR event
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to inform about the maritime patrol aircraft regarding a boat in distress close to Sabratah oil field. Aquarius asks for instructions. ITMRCC says that the Libyan JRCC is coordinating this case. Aquarius repeats it has tried to contact them multiple times, via VHF, radio and email over the past four days to request coordination for SAR operations, without success. Aquarius asks ITMRCC for coordination as the best suited authority in the area. Aquarius informs it has altered course. ITMRCC says it cannot coordinate this SAR event.
Aquarius sends request for coordination of SAR event to the following European MRCCs
Please be informed that the Aquarius 2 has received an alert for a rubber boat in distress within the Libyan SRR at pos. 33-35.4 N 012-27-0E with between 100-150 pax on board. This information was received by the Maritime Patrol Aircraft(MPA) “Seagull 95.” Aquarius has tried to contact JRCC Tripoli but has had no answer (this has been consistently the case for a week regarding other SAR events). It is also important to note that we have consistently attempted to contact ITMRCC who in response informs us that we must contact JRCC Tripoli. Consistently, we have been trying all of this with no success. The confusion around the coordination of the rescue operation only delays the intervention and puts the lives of those in danger at further unnecessary risk. Since there is an ongoing conflict in Tripoli right now, perhaps JRCC Tripoli are unable to reply.
At present, the Aquarius 2 is proceeding towards the position of the distress. Seagull 95 has been trying to contact *** ***** (callsign ******** MMSI **********); however, this appears not to have worked. It is important to mention that *** ***** was in contact with MPA Colibri yesterday and was informed of a boat in distress with 30pax near their position. They informed the Colibri that they could not help and then moved away from the boat in distress leaving the people in danger. Again for this reason, the Aquarius 2 is proceeding towards the distress position and will assist immediately if needed as per International Maritime Law. We request that a RCC in a position to reply please coordinate this event for the safety of those people on board the boat in distress. Please send a InMarsat C alert to all vessels in the area. Weather conditions in the area are getting steadily worse over the coming hours and next days.
For any other questions please refer to our electronic logbook, available at onboard-aquarius.org.
Please acknowledge receipt of this message.
ITMRCC calls Aquarius informing that the Libyan Coast has completed the rescue of the boat in distress
ITMRCC calls Aquarius informing that the Libyan Coast has completed the rescue of the boat in distress. Aquarius asks for a SAR number and the position of the boat. ITMRCC is unable to provide this information.
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to inform that a merchant ship has rescued or is rescuing people
Aquarius calls ITMRCC to inform that a merchant ship has rescued or is rescuing people. Aquarius informs that either the information provided by ITMRCC earlier was inaccurate or there is a second rescue underway. Aquarius informs that it remains ready to assist any rescue operation and has two doctors, two nurses and a midwife on board to provide medical assistance in case of need.
Aquarius informs European MRCCs that a rescue operation of a rubber boat in distress was conducted by a merchant vessel and informs of Aquarius’ medical capacities if necessary to intervene.
Please be informed that *** **** at pos 33-39.5N 012-31.0E SOG 7.5 COG 046 carried out rescue operation of a rubber boat in distress. Aquarius has contacted *** **** to offer assistance if needed for any medical emergencies(Aquarius has 2 emergency doctors, 2 nurses and 1 midwife). Aquarius is in a position to bring all rescued people onboard and to transit them to a place of safety. As Libya is not currently a place of safety, legally the rescued people should not be sent back to Libya. Aquarius is standing by for any instructions from any competent RCC.
Aquarius is waiting for the weather to improve, just outside Maltese territorial waters. Waves are approximately 2 metres high, 20 knots wind and sea state is 4. Aquarius’ current position is 35°45.08N, 013°57.24E
Aquarius is still on standby for a transfer in international waters in front of Malta
Aquarius is currently in position 35°39′ N, 014°15′ E, south west of Malta. Aquarius can move at best speed approximately 9.5 knots so asks RCC Malta to provide enough time in advance to proceed to point of transfer