Italy impounds migrant charity ship after multiple rescues

Italian authorities have detained and fined Norway-flagged rescue ship Geo Barents (IMO 9252503) operated by Doctors Without Borders (aka Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF), shortly after parliament passed into law a government decree establishing a code of conduct for migrant charity ships. Italy is struggling to keep down migrant numbers, which have soared this year despite the current administration being elected on a commitment to bring the numbers down.

The vessel was placed in administrative detention for 20 days and fined €10,000 MSF said on Thursday October 5th.

MSF said on social media that Italian authorities entered the vessel on Thursday evening and notified the crew of the disciplinary measures. “We are assessing what legal actions we can take to challenge what happened,” MSF said, asserting that “it is not acceptable to be punished for saving lives.”

Italy’s parliament voted earlier on October 5th to introduce a law whereby ships have to request access to a port and sail to it “without delay” after rescue, as well as disclose detailed information about their activities.

Captains breaching the regulations risk fines of up to €50,000. Repeated violations can result in their vessels being impounded, the law stipulates.

MSF said it was accused of withholding some information about a rescue it completed last week, when the Geo Barents took 48 migrants and refugees to the Adriatic port of Ancona.

2007-built, Norway-flagged, 4,979 gt Geo Barents is owned by Uksnøy Barents KS care of Uksnøy & Co AS of Aalesund, Norway. It is entered with Gard on behalf of Uksnøy Barents KS. As of October 5th the vessel was listed as underway off the Italian coast, having left Citavecchia on October 2nd.