Maersk containership rescues hundreds of migrants off Libya

A 147-meter Maersk containership took aboard hundreds of migrants in distress in the Mediterranean Sea in the second such incident for the vessel in less than a year. Maersk Line revealed details of the rescue on Thursday.

The company said that on April 9, the MV Maersk Regensburg was sailing from Al Khoms, Libya to Sfax, Tunisia when it called on to assist in search and rescue of migrants off Libya.

The vessel diverted, and with the help of an Italian coastguard patrol boat transferred a total of 427 persons to the ship – including 324 men, 94 women and 9 children.

Once aboard, the Maersk crew segregated the men from the women, provided medical assistance where possible and fed the migrants with whatever could be spared.

Maersk Line said that the circumstances of rescue were almost exactly similar to a rescue performed by the Maersk Regensburg on June 6-7, 2014.

“Using tactics employed last year, we segregated women and children to the starboard aft, men to port and starboard forward areas, then made medical assessments as best we could,” says Captain Andrew Lewington.

“Some medical issues were taken care of by a doctor from the naval vessel, but fortunately no ailments required immediate evacuation,” Captain Lewington adds.

On the first day of rescue, catering staff prepared soup and distributed water to the migrants throughout the evening, Maersk Line said. The following day, the crew managed to supply all of the migrants with three meals – including 700 eggs and 500 sausages for breakfast, and chicken, rice and pizza for lunch and dinner, according to Maersk.

The rescue for Maersk Regensburg ended on April 12 when a flotilla of small vessels arrived alongside to start disembarking the migrants. At 12noon, the vessel could resume its passage, Maersk Line added.

Reflecting on the experience, Captain Lewington added: “Once again, a very long and demanding three days, however my previous experiences greatly assisted us. Throughout this time, the 19 crew of the Maersk Regensburg acted with great professionalism, showing compassion when required.

“They served the vessel and Maersk Line commendably and I as Captain am again proud of their achievements and of the willingness shown throughout.”

Maersk Regensburg was built in 2006 and is part of the 1,118 Regensburg-class.

The shipping industry has been active in calling for increased EU action in dealing with the humanitarian crisis that has played out in Mediterranean Sea since 2014, saying that merchant ships and crews are ill-equipped to carry out large-scale rescues of migrants at sea. Since the beginning of 2014, merchant ships have been involved in an estimated 1,000 rescue operations, leading to the rescue of more than 40,000 people.

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