Migrant rescue ship Sea-Eye detained for third time this year

Germany-based NGO Sea-Eye said that it was seeking to start a legal challenge after Italy detained the group’s vessel Sea-Eye 4 (IMO 7214753), making it the third time in 2023 that the vessel has been prevented from heading out into the Mediterranean in search of distressed migrant vessels.

Previously the vessel had been fined or detained for not going to the ports as directed by the Italian authorities, and/or failing to head directly to a port after a rescue. This time the dispute involved Sea-Eye 4 allegedly not following orders from a Libyan vessel and then arguing with the Italian Coast Guard for the removal of a pregnant woman that they believed was in imminent medical danger.

Sea Eye said on social media: “We are furious – the Italian authorities have come up with an outrageous accusation to detain our ship again for 20 days and to demand a fine of around €3,000 from us” Sea-Eye wrote, noting: “The accusation: we had not followed the instructions of the extremely aggressive so-called Libyan coast guard.”

Sea Eye claimed that the situation began in the Mediterranean, in international waters. The NGO’s Sea-Eye 4 located an inflatable rubber raft holding as many as 50 people. On October 27th the ship was in the area of the raft when a Libyan vessel ordered them to depart. The Sea-Eye 4 refused and later released a video which the NGO said showed Libyans causing panic among the migrants aboard the raft.

The video shows the Libyan vessel sailing close to the raft while the people aboard are waving in distress. Sea Eye said that three of the refugees nearly drowned. Sea-Eye 4 disobeyed the Libyan commands and moved in and rescued the approximately 50 people in the raft.

Sea-Eye said that that their representatives could not detect a heartbeat from an unborn child and called the Italian Coast Guard for a medical evacuation. They requested a helicopter, which they contend the Italians refused. The woman was later transferred by sea to an Italian patrol boat.

The Italians then permitted Sea-Eye 4 to dock on October 29th in the port of Vibo Valentia, on the southwestern coast of Italy. The organization reports that 48 people survived and were transferred to the Italian authorities. The NGO said that the sanctioning of its vessel had “no basis in international law.” They are looking to bring a legal case against the Italian Coast Guard.

1972-built, Germany-flagged, 1,053 gt Sea-Eye 4 is owned by Sea-Eye 4 GmbH care of GRS Rohden Shipping GmbH of Hamburg, Germany. As of November 4th it was listed as underway in the Tyrrhenian Sea, western Mediterranean, from Vibo Valentia to Taranto, both Italy.