The Ocean Viking is once again free to save lives. Ten days after the detention of the Ocean Viking in Civitavecchia, the Italian authorities recognized that the ship chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE is in fact compliant with all applicable regulations, as the Norwegian Flag State authorities and the ship’s classification society have confirmed. The detention was therefore lifted without any substantial changes to the certification, crewing or lifesaving appliances.
While we are relieved that we can resume operations with the Ocean Viking, the confirmation of the ship’s compliance raises questions about the justification of the detention. Since SOS MEDITERRANEE started chartering the Ocean Viking in the summer of 2019, the ship has been subject to an unusually high number of Port State Control inspections, the most recent one being the seventh such inspection in less than four years. Not only has the Ocean Viking been under an extraordinary level of scrutiny, but we have also been confronted with questionable interpretations of existing rules and standards, as have other Search and Rescue NGOs.
The most recent detention of the Ocean Viking stopped the vessel for a total of ten days. This measure has removed our rescue ship from the central Mediterranean, where she is urgently needed to rescue the lives of people trying to flee escalating xenophobia and violent altercations in Tunisia and grave abuses in Libya on unseaworthy boats, while rescue assets are still lacking in the central Mediterranean. More than 1,900 people have died and gone missing in the Mediterranean this year already. A humanitarian crisis where needs of life-saving operations are not covered, and all assets available are necessary.