Migrants and Yachts


With migrants setting out to sea in makeshift craft across the sea there is a very real possibility that superyachts could become involved in Humanitarian Rescue at Sea. The question is are superyachts and the crews that man them prepared?

Every year thousands of desperate people are fleeing their country by sea to escape persecution, war and violence.

In 2014 the number of people arriving by sea in Europe was 219,000. In 2015 this number increased dramatically, with close to a million refugees reported to have attempted crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

These people are desperate to flee their country and embark on the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean with their families knowing that the rate of survival is low.

Migrant vessels are carrying anywhere between 10 and 850 persons on board. An encounter with one of these migrant vessels raises a whole range of questions and safety issues for owners and their yachts such as stability, security, safety of own vessel and crew, food and medical supplies, and loss of earnings to the owner.

In February this year, the yacht Gene Machine encountered 6 Cuban migrants in a broken down boat after being adrift for 6 days off the coast of Miami. Several Merchant and Navy ships have also been actively involved in several rescues worldwide over the past 12 months.

The issue is not new and refugee migration is happening the world over. Just last year the Professional Yachting Association [PYA], All Mode and Onboard Online got together to produce a very useful aide memoir on Migrant Boat Encounters with other companies following suit.

Under International Maritime Law, the Master of each vessel has an obligation to render assistance to those in distress at sea without regard to their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found. Helpfully the amended regulations do however also state that Contracting States shall provide assistance to Masters and release them from their obligations with minimum further deviation from their voyage.

Captains and crew have to face the reality that they may encounter or be called upon to render assistance to a vessel in the near future; the key to effective assistance is being prepared. Prior to the start of the season, Masters should carry out a full risk assessment to identify the hazards and safety and security risks associated with a large-scale rescue at sea.

Yacht Services and Management company Rosemont Yacht have prepared a full article on its website where they look at the key points to be considered when preparing the Risk Assessment and Standard Operating Procedure.

It is well worth the read