Maersk captain calls for help for migrants taken aboard

Hire a boat and take them back to Libya.

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Does that apply to anybody that is picked up when in peril on the high seas, incl. American mariners??

Who cares about International Maritime Laws and customs when it comes to refugees/asylum seekers/migrants from Africa and/or the Middle East?

PS> Libya may not want them since they are not Libyan citizen.

No, just customers of the Libyan ferry terminal.

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Sorry, the ferry was about to sink, doesn’t that make them survivors under Maritime Law? (No matter where the ferry terminal is situated)

I didn’t say to let them drown. I said to get them back to where they bought a passage that was not completed. They are the responsibility of the ferry business.

They are not wanted in Malta or Italy either and those nations had nothing to do with the situation so no matter what Libya wants, that is where they bought passage. Take them back and let the Libyans deal with it.

Yhe only way to end this obscene trade is to ensure that the ferry goes nowhere.

At the cost of how many innocent lives?? They are not criminals, or terrorists, just men, women and children seeking a better lift.

I have been in the position of that Maersk Master and can empathize with him.
In the late 1970s I was Captain of a drillship working in the South China Sea and picked up thousands of refugees. I was told to use fire hoses to keep the refugee boats away from the rig. (To let them drown, starve or be killed by pirate Like so many other did)

My reply: “Buster, you come out her and I’ll supply you with a fire hose. You spray down women and children in overcrowded boats. I’m a Seaman and we pick up people in peril, no matter who they are or why they are in danger”

Buster did not take up the offer though.

Moral of the story; It is easy to talk tough when you’r sitting in safety and air-conditioned comfort in front of your computer, making anonymous posts.
It is a lot harder when you are looking at hundreds of people packed onto unseaworthy boats, bagging for help to say “go back where you came from”.


you have to be careful pirates will disguise themselves as refuges to get aboard.

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Have you ever heard of that happening, or are you just creating a conspiracy theory?

I don’t know the personal background of the person hiding behind “rustbucket”, but I don’t think you have ever had to make decision that could cost hundreds of people their life.

PS> You left out “I’m a seaman” That is an important part of that quote.


We approach a skiff in the Med with folks waving their shirts and they requested aid. We stopped, thew them a line then called for help. When the Spanish Civil Guard boat got there these men threw a pistol and knives overboard.

Im not saying leave them to die. Sure throw down a life raft and make sure they dont drown. But let law enforcement deal with them. Dont let them get on your ship.

When you see a boat with relatively few people, all male, on board by careful. Especially if you are in area where piracy is known to occure. The Med around Spain is not one of them, (at least not in the last century, or more)

An overcrowded boat with both men women and children on board is very unlikely to be pirates.

In the case of the Maersk Etienne is not about refusing to pick up people in peril, but European countries refusing to follow Maritime Laws that they are signatories to.

I agree that the situation in the article is disgusting and I agree that the skiff we helped probably weren’t pirates. However they were sketchy. Maybe drugs were involved, IDK. Hopefully you can see how letting a bunch of folk with questionable intention on board could be a security concern.

The other thing to consider is that some “refuges” may be kidnapped by human traffickers. Which is why law enforcement should be involved rather than just dropping them off where they came from. That being said, things get tricky when law enforcement refuse to do their duty.

See my post #7 above.
Yes I do know, incl. how to mitigate the risk by searching those you pick up.

We also keep them separated from the crew in case of infectious deceases among the survivors.
Many of those we picked up were suffering from skin deceases after days at sea in cramped conditions, with seawater spray and oil leaks.
We arranged cleaned out drums full of water and improvised male and female bath areas on the poop deck between the anchor winches and demanded that everybody washed asap after arriving on board.

PS> We were major consumers of Detol during the worst time in the SCS (June-July, 1979, when we picked up nearly 2300 in 4 weeks)

I also know how to judge risk and avoid pirate infested waters from sailing in S.E.Asian waters in the late 1960s, early 1970s. (Long before AIS and Voyage Plan submission existed).
I would not let anybody know which route we would be following from Singapore to East Indonesia, especially in the SW Monsoon season, when we may go north of Borneo and through the Celebes Sea., passing Jolo Island, a place were piracy was regarded as an honourable occupation. (May still be)

PS> The Jolo pirates had their informers at Telok Ayer Basin in Singapore that kept them informed of ships with “interesting” cargo that may get into their area of operation.


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Things may look easy when you are not responsible, or in command, but if you “throw down a liferaft” and it is used (blown up) your ship will no longer be legally seaworthy and would have to terminate the voyage until you can get a replacement raft, or get back your own, fully serviced.

We are talking about a life threatening situation and I get things would things look very different from the captain’s chair of a ship. But if I was a my personal boat and I came across a sinking boat but conditions prevented me from directly approaching them, I would not think about the cost to repack the raft when using it to transfer survivors between the vessels.

I think it would be exceptionally risky to directly approach an over loaded, under powered boat in anything other than the calmest of conditions. They are using barely sea worthy dinghies and fishing boats, not pilot boats.

Imagine trying to do this with dozens of people without life vests who dont speak your language in an unseaworthy boat. Oh, and some of them dont know how to swim just to top it off. Looks like a recipe for disaster. 31 people out of 130 were lost in this rescue attempt

No, neither would the Master of a merchant ship either, given that situation.
To “throw a liferaft” because you are afraid the people in peril could possibly, maybe be pirates, terrorists, (or have Covid-19) is not the same.

The first video shows someone with little understanding of how to perform a rescue of a person or persons from a small boat.
Lowering the gangway is not a good option in those conditions.
Using a painter line to control the boat and the pilot ladder for boarding would be more efficient.

The second situation is fairly typical of the situations faced off Libya.
Are those people dangerous, or just in danger?

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Those folks are clearly refuges, else where in the world it might not be as clear. There’s always risk to transferring people, both to them and security wise. If their boat is safely afloat, albeit disabled. I think the very best action is to call for help and stand by in the intimidate area so you can step in if things deteriorate while you wait for the local coast guard. They will be better equipped to preform the rescue than a container ship or tanker. If things are really bad(like they’ve capsized) or you’re the only folks for hundreds of miles it might be necessary to attempt the rescue without delay but that would not be my first choice. Throwing them a line to pull over a life raft or using rescue boat if you have one, would be a safer rescue platform than approaching a sunken boat directly.

If you approached a couple of dozen people on the verge of drowning with a rescue boat they would probably swamp it and take your guys down with them.

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Many African countries are actually developing quite well, many are actually really nice and not as bad as stereotypes would lead us to believe.

The video I link below is run by a entertaining guy from Ghana, on his channel he shows lots of people who are moving to Africa because there are great business opportunists.

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