Migrant boat driver hits police launch, claims moral high ground

The media seems very sympathetic, and various politicians are grandstanding with gusto. So far I have seen no concrete mention of the legal aspects.


First thought was, “Don’t trust any supposed journalist that labels a politician either far-left or far-right”. I doubt Minister Salvini sees himself as far-right but only doing the job that he was appointed to do. The Italian Minister of the Interiors job description is on Wikipedia.

The article in The Independent is purely 100% biased in favor of the immigrants, Captain Rackete & her organization & against the government. The article state her case quite well without mentioning any of her risky behaviour & don’t give a single sentence to explain why the government & many Italian citizens wanted Captain Rackete to spend her 12 days offshore transiting to somewhere else & not dumping her passengers onto Italy’s already overburdened, failing social net.


So true, and that makes less and less trustworthy voices to listen to these days. Surprisingly, the most neutral account I’ve seen so far was from Norwegian NRK, who pretty much stated the facts and gave a quote from either side. Apart from that, everyone seems to be out to demonize someone.

I also don’t buy the narrative that this is between the captain and the Minister of the Interiors. Surely it’s between the captain and the relevant maritime authorities, such as the Guardia di Finanza and Polizia di Frontiera, based on applicable rules and conventions.


I am not happy that the ship is flying the Dutch flag, certainly not since they seemed to have intentionally rammed a government vessel which is a serious offence. The Italians will not let this pass unpunished. Not so smart to have done this as now the Italians have a solid legal grip on the captain and the ship.

I searched but could not find a video showing the situation leading up to the collision and that is a bit strange because these days almost literally everything is filmed.

The Dutch government has put into effect their usual cowardly policy of taking no action, not choosing sides, clam up and hope that it all will blow over in good time. However, that is not likely to happen this time I think.

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next time they should return gunfire to get their point over, that what I would expect if I tried that stunt?

Which side?

It doesn’t matter what Salvini considers himself, he is a populist strongman.

Aside from that Italy is in violations of SOLAS Code chapter V regulation 33 by detaining the captain.


Further, the EU has failed for carry out proper search and rescue operations where a known humanitarian crisis is unfolding in which thousands have died. Italy is part of that Bloc and as such- in addition to being a signatory to the SOLAS code- must cooperate with Sea Watch as it is a private search and rescue service as defined under SOLAS. Migrants must given a safe place of discharge where they can be transported to their final destinations. That’s the law.

Finally Italy is in violation IMO resolution A.920 by not allowing vessels that have rescued migrants in distress a safe place to discharge and process them. Discharging them in North Africa is against the UNITED Nations 2004 ammendment to the SAR Convention. Please have a look at the legal brief it is very helpful in understanding the position of the UN.

Solas and IMO rules dont have any annexes or subparts stating that they can be ignored depending on the will of politicians and voters or capacity of social systems to accommodate rescued migrants.

And one thing on the issue of ramming a patrol vessel. The Sea Watch 3 is a very slow vessel. 10kn top. The vessel it collided with is a 50ton high speed, very Italian looking, littoral patrol boat. The boat got between the ship and the dock and was damaged. Why the boat decided it would Force contact in a low risk confrontation is fairly obvious when you take into account the recent events in Lamoedusa between Sea Watch and Salvini. It provides a pretext for arrest.

We as Mariners are morally and legally obliged to uphold the sanctity of maritime rescue and the the provisions that protect those on both sides of it, regardless of politics or national origins.


That is using a legal technicality to justify a human trafficking business on a par with the phony charities that collect cash for whatever is the tear jerker cause du jour.

Those “rescue” boats are part of the transit network that make it possible for the human traffickers to sell transportation to their customers. If the “rescue” boats were not there, there would be little if any business for the Africa based traffickers. The boats are part of the network, they facilitate human trafficking, they are a major element of a filthy business.


still doesnt mean they rescue ship isnt on the payroll of people smugglers
Which country has the humanitarian crisis on the north coast of Africa?

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It is all part of a business model wherein the migrants, not being in distress but deliberately put on some sort of floating device and close to the shore, are picked up by ships like the Seawatch 3. Just look at the AIS data. It seems that the ‘rescuers’ are in contact with the human traffickers ashore to learn about the location, date and time that another shipload is sent off to sea which makes them part of the trafficking system.


Using yours & Sea Watch’s logic the U.S Government should station a fleet of ships just off the western coast of Africa in case any refugees try to make it to the U.S by crossing the Atlantic? Of course we all know African refugees don’t try to get to the U.S via refugee boats but that would change if Captain Rackete & Sea Watch started conducting “rescue” cruises off the western coast of Africa to pick up refugees then transit them the rest of the way across. I don’t have the bandwidth or the desire to post links as references but it has been widely reported by several agencies that the human traffickers put the paying refugees into anything that floats because they will be picked up very quickly by other legal human traffickers like Sea Watch. Don’t be so gullible & use some common sense.

Also, from my years of sailing, I can’t think of a single scenario where the master wouldn’t have been put in jail immediately if he willing hit a government patrol boat then tied up at a port against the orders of the government that controlled that port. It doesn’t make any sense? What else are you supposed to do with a master after such a thing happens? It’s a no brainer.


It’s not a legal technicality, it’s the purpose of multiple international regulations. They are not exploiting a loophole, the IMO has clear policy delineating how this crisis should be handled by signatory states.

The boats are there to fill a void left by the EUs departure from the search and rescue zone off Libya. People have been trying to cross into Europe this way for 30 years and sea watch only began operations in 2015. It’s documeted that 27,000 people have drowned at sea trying to make the crossing.

I don’t see how conducting operations in the light of day and calling for systematic change in the way Europe handles this constitutes a human trafficking business. They’re not coyotes sneaking people through, they hand the rescued over to the authorities for processing.


There are no credible sources supporting the claim that the rescuers profit from or coordinate with human smugglers. That’s simply not what’s happening.

About the hypothetical refugees fleeing to the US- for one if they were rescued in a similar manner as they are now there are several EU archipelagos that would be compelled and have in the past provided a safe place of discharge. Sea watch does not check receipts and take you to where you want to go, they take people in danger to the nearest port of refuge where they are documented and either held or moved forward to a country willing to take them.
On your fears being overrun by African migrants here in the US- If they made it the 2000nm or so to be closer to Virginia than the Azores then yes, I would say maybe pick them up and take them the rest of the way to process them. I would have guessed that in your many years sailing you’d notice those rocks in the middle of the Atlantic- those are actually European rocks, your thought experiment doesn’t check out. Use some common sense and don’t listen to everything Breitbart says to get you frothed up.

But that’s not whats happening in the Med. It’s actually possible to take a rubber boat with a 40hp Yamaha to several European countries from North Africa. Sea Watch is performing a service by picking people up and bringing them to the relevant authorities instead of beaching up sewhere and dispersing- which has happened many times and you will find examples of it with a cursory search despite your modest bandwidth.

It’s unfortunate that Sea Watch must be there but the politics of this are deeply fucked up. Just remember that Libya was once North Africas success story and one of the largest economies in Africa. NATO certainly has more responsibility for these people showing up en masse the way they are now than Sea Watch does for saving their lives.


I agree with you about the U.S, France & the other EU nations screwing up by interfering with the dictators of the Middle East but good luck trying to convince the world everyone from the Middle East should get an EU or US passport because of it.

I read the SOLAS chapter V, 33 link, it wasn’t a long read, just a few paragraphs. Thanks. No where in it does it state a ships master can go into any port that she/he wishes, play bumper boats with the local patrol vessels & tie up anywhere they like because they are ferrying refugees. If any other master did that anywhere else in the world they would have ended up in jail just like the master of the Sea Watch 3. There were dozens of other options that Captain Rackete could have taken that didn’t involve a marine collision & her further breaking the laws of Italy. Either she acted stupidly for the publicity or she is a stupid captain.

And no & no. I don’t believe these legal NGO human traffickers are doing it to get money from the refugees. I have no clue what Breit Bart looks or sounds like. I never watched an episode.

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No one is advocating for everyone crossing the med to get an EU or US passport. Most never get full citizenship. I don’t understand your fear of people different than yourself but it’s besides the point, the only reason we are talking about this is because it’s a maritime issue. In respect to that I reiterate my previous point that we as Mariners have an obligation to uphold the preservation of life at sea, I think speaking out against sea rescue betrays a weakness of spirit and I would not trust a shipmate that espoused such views.

Its true the law does not state that you can collide with law enforcemet and run amok, that’s because the regulation deals with the responsibilities of Masters and states coordinating search and rescue. The rescue Coordination Center in Rome oversees the rescue zone and coordinated rescues with Sea Watch as early as last year, however I cannot find information on their relationship now, I’d wager it’s tense considering their history. What regulation 33 says is below, please note the bold portion.

Contracting Governments shall co-ordinate and co-operate to ensure that masters of ships providing assistance by embarking persons in distress at sea are released from their obligations with minimum further deviation from the ships’ intended voyage, provided that releasing the master of the ship from the obligations under the current regulation does not further the safety of life at sea. The Contracting Government responsible for the search and rescue region in which such assistance is rendered shall exercise primary responsibility for ensuring such co-ordination and co-operation occurs, so that survivors assisted are disembarked from the assisting ship and delivered to a place of safety, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case and guidelines developed by the Organization. In these cases the relevant Contracting Governments shall arrange for such disembarkation to be effected as soon as reasonably practicable.

After reading that tell me that Italy is following the law and Salvini is only fulfilling his mandate. Salvini is playing a political game with a humanitarian crisis and bringing Italy into non-compliance with SOLAS.

Im glad you see that it was normal for the master to be arrested after colliding with the patrol boat, which is exactly the reason the master of the 800 class vessel placed his craft between the larger less maneuverable ship and the dock. It wasn’t as though the Sea Watch 3 came steaming in to unleash the Moslem hoardes into Lampedusa. They were mooring and the government needed a convenient pretext for arresting the captain.

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What’s going on here is that people are intentionally placing themselves in distress, thus invoking SOLAS 5-33. This activity peaked massively after EU governments stepped up SAR ops in the area, and the migrants themselves downplay the risk because “We’ll get rescued once we get into international waters”. I’d argue that the SAR initiative has led directly to a massive loss of life, all so that some politicians can point to how very good-hearted they are.

Indeed. It is also quite possible to roll a North Atlantic built rescue tug 55 degrees to either side in the same area, something I happen to know for a fact. However, this is all moot, because the intention of the traffickers isn’t to make it all the way to a European country, but to conduct a cargo transfer just off the coast. Also, this should be known to you, but hey, I guess I shouldn’t count on our local Sea Shepherd recruiter for a balanced reading of the facts.

As long as this was going on with government backing, it was pretty clear cut, at least legally. However, when someone starts conducting SAR ops knowing very well that they will not be allowed disembarkation where they intend, I do ask myself where we are in the grey area between SAR and human trafficking.

The regulations repeatedly state that they should benefit anyone, regardless of nationality and the circumstances in which they are found. To me, the question is if this flagrant abuse of the law might not lead to stipulations being added, and THAT is something “we as Mariners” should be concerned about.


The vessels smuggling, and trafficking illegal immigrants should be intercepted at sea, the crews and owners arrested, and the illegal immigrants returned to their country of origin. The vessels should be sunk so they cannot do it again. Effective get tough policies on illegal mass immigration by undesirables are much needed and long overdue.


Smugglers are launching boats packed with migrants from Libyan beaches with little fuel and cheap outboard engines and then abandon the boats knowing full well that they are likely to be rescued once they reach international waters. In the event that they are not rescued they couldn’t care less as they have pocketed the money, 750 - 3500 dollars per person.

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Yeah man you got it all figured out. 27000 deaths at sea are inconsequential to us unless it causes rule changes that could affect us pesonally. Thanks for clearing that up. Thoughts and prayers to you I hope with counseling you can one day move past the trauma of what the North Atlantic built rescue tug did to you. Really moving testimony.

But seriously saying people intentionally put them selves in distress and making light of this crisis is fucked and appalling. Most of them leave without life jackets. Almost none can swim. It’s desperation not opportunism.

You talk about balanced reading of the facts but framed your presentation of the Indipendent article in a hostile partisan manner. Here’s a fact: 27000 people drowned at Europes doorstep since 1993. It’s not a new thing that Sea Watch started. Maybe I was wrong to think I could spark compassion and self reflection in a member of a society that still hunts whales.

I don’t have solutions, the societal and geopolitical reasons for what happens today go back centuries and this is really the place for it, but if we AS HUMANS cannot support saving those in need then we have a serious issue as a society.

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That’s true. Do these people left at sea deserve to drown?