The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the global shipping industry, has expressed its concerns over the recent incident involving the Palau-flagged tanker El Hiblu 1.
Earlier this week, the tanker had been taken over by migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, reportedly because the ship was going to return the rescued persons to Libya.
The small tanker arrived yesterday in Malta with more than 100 migrants on board.
According to ICS, the association is still establishing the details of the ongoing incident but welcomes initial reports that the Maltese authorities have taken action to ensure that the situation is safely resolved.
“ICS is carefully watching this new development, which it will seek to raise with the UN International Maritime Organization which is in session in London this week,” Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General, commented.
“If a ship is directed to disembark rescued people in Libya, it creates a potential for conflict between the crew and desperate and frustrated people that might object to being returned. Given the numbers picked up in such large scale rescue operations, the crew of the rescuing ship can easily be outnumbered and overwhelmed.
“Masters of merchant ships should expect that coastal states’ search and rescue authorities will co-ordinate and provide for disembarkation in a place of safety, both for those rescued and for the seafarers involved in the rescue,” he said.
Platten also reflected on the fact that seafarers on board ships involved in such incidents are civilians and can be affected by traumatic situations they have to face after complying with their obligation to rescue distressed persons at sea.
Merchant ships are still diverted by rescue coordination centers to support large scale rescue operations in the Mediterranean, having rescued tens of thousands of people since the current crisis began in 2015.