Published by Board Mediterranea | 26 / Aug / 2023

MEDITERRANEA on inspection of the MARE JONIO: "They have built a mechanism to prevent a civil rescue ship from sailing under the Italian flag: but we are not giving up".

Following the completion of maintenance, adaptation and enhancement work on the rescue equipment, since Tuesday 22nd August the MARE JONIO ship has been undergoing Flag Authority inspection in order to obtain the Safety Certificate required to resume her missions at sea.

Yesterday, the results of the first, thorough and strict controls carried out for nine hours on board the ship by a Commission led by the Trapani Harbour Master's Office were officially announced, stating that "at present, the conditions for the release of the Safety Certificate do not exist." The vast majority of the disputed "irregularities" refer to the request to certify the ship for "rescue service". The release of the certificate has been denied because the ship does not fulfill the requirements set by Circulars No. 166 of 2021 and No. 167 of 2022 (Draghi Government).

While on the one hand it is acknowledged that the vessel is well equipped for SAR activities, on the other hand it is contested that the vessel is not certified according to the 2008 International SPS (Special Purpose Ship) Code, which provides for special construction criteria for hulls, their compartmentalisation and stability calculations for vessels built from May 2008 onwards with a tonnage of over 500 tonnes, which are structurally inapplicable to a tug boat built in 1972 like the MARE JONIO.

The effects of these two Circulars must be read in conjunction with the Piantedosi Decree (later converted into Law no. 15 of 24 February 2023 - Meloni Government), where it states that "a vessel carrying out search and rescue activities at sea on a systematic basis shall operate in accordance with the certificates and documents issued by the competent authorities of the Flag State" (in this case: Italy).

In essence, the last two governments have introduced "technical" regulation aimed at making it impossible for a civil rescue ship operating under the Italian flag to exist.

The paradox is that in May, the MARE JONIO obtained confirmation of full certification as a "Rescue ship, particularly equipped for the recovery and accommodation of shipwrecked persons” from RINA (the Italian Naval Register), the technical body recognised by the Italian flag authorities.

A further paradox is that, under any other European flag, the RINA classification would be more than sufficient to certify the MARE JONIO as a rescue ship and allow her to operate freely.

This is yet another chapter in the Italian governments' never-ending war against civil sea rescue, which has seen a resurgence in recent days with the administrative detention of Aurora Sea-Watch, Open Arms and Sea-Eye-4 vessels, solely guilty of saving lives in alledged violation of the inhumane rules of the Piantedosi Decree. A senseless war that continues, with no justification whatsoever, while in the central Mediterranean sea more than 2.000 women, men and children have lost their lives in the last eight months, and the situation at sea would instead require us to join every effort to the rescue activity laboriously carried out every day by the other ships of the Civil Fleet and the assets of the Italian Coast Guard and other military forces.

But we won’t give up: we are already working to overcome the minor 'irregularities' that have been contested, and to obtain the certifications that will allow the MARE JONIO to sail again along the central Mediterranean routes as soon as possible.


Trapani, 26th August 2023

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