Published by Board Mediterranea | 12 / Sep / 2023

The three falsehoods of the Coast Guard on the Mare Jonio case

It is with disappointment and regret that we find ourselves obliged to respond to the communiqué issued yesterday by the Press Office of the General Command of the Harbour Authority - Coast Guard on the case regarding our ship MARE JONIO.

We are disappointed because the communiqué contains at least three falsehoods:

1. The Shipping Company that operates the ship on behalf of Mediterranea has never renounced to request the certification of the MARE JONIO for the rescue service. On the contrary, we believe that the Circulars cited are not applicable to a ship like MARE JONIO and are the result of a political, and not a technical, will to hinder civil rescue activities at sea. We will fight in every forum so that this perverse mechanism is dismantled and the rescue activity carried out by MARE JONIO and the other ships of the Civil Fleet is recognised and certified. In the meantime, we have asked the Trapani Harbour Master's Office to issue, 'first and foremost and in any case', the certifications that are indispensable for sailing.

2. 'Rescue/rescue service equipment and facilities' are in no way 'dangerous' nor do they 'impede' the navigation of the ship in cargo service. The same Harbour Master inspectors who came on board never contested this. So the presence of these materials on board, which increase the safety of the MARE JONIO and the ability to rescue lives in danger, is perfectly compatible with the certifications already issued.

3. The Harbour Master - in an official email communication registered under no. 39176 on 08.09. 2023 - never mentioned "some equipment" but warned us to remove before departure all "the equipment and gear embarked on board the MARE JONIO for the performance of the rescue service", i.e. all the materials present and inventoried in the Rescue Plan already approved by RINA (Italian Naval Register). Including in these material are: Japanese nets for recovering people overboard, thermal blankets to protect against hypothermia, kits with fresh towels and clothes, chemical toilets, showers and sinks, additional supplies of drinking water and food for the survivors, three hundred extra life jackets, self-inflating rafts, centifloats and rescue rafts, medicines and medical equipment contained in the first aid container.

If they have changed their minds in the meantime, it would be a good idea for them to inform us officially, instead of writing - literally - that the warning to disembark the life-saving equipment and apparatus 'has the value of a legal order issued in accordance with and for the purpose of Article 650 of the Penal Code', which provides for up to three months' imprisonment for offenders.

But we also respond to this with regret, as well as disappointment, because - despite the fact that the political power continues to cynically use parts of this Corps in its senseless war against solidarity - our respect and gratitude towards the women and men of the Italian Coast Guard, who have rescued at least 70,000 people in Italy in the last few months alone, remain unchanged. With them we feel part of a 'rescue community' that includes in its ranks civilians and military, non-governmental activists and the merchant mariners. Far more means and resources are needed for this corps, and far more means and resources for saving lives at sea should be on board of every ship sailing in the Mediterranean.


Trapani, 12th September 2023

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