The UK’s North P&I Club has “warned” ship owners about costs that might not be covered while undertaking large scale rescues in the Mediterranean Sea.
A notice from the Club tells owners, “Lack of preparedness for a large-scale rescue operation could lead to a myriad of difficulties, dangers and uninsured costs for those involved” and warns it is imperative to “have proper procedures in place to prevent a rescue situation spiralling out of control”.
Speaking to IHS Maritime, a spokesman for the Club was unable to clarify uncovered costs, as “it is difficult to envisage every circumstance” and because every case will vary, depending on the insurance arrangements that are in place for each company.
Costs that are covered by North, are: net diversion expenses for the rescue and landing of those rescued; any liabilities that may arise from sickness and injury; reasonable costs of looking after those rescued whilst on board; and fines in relation to immigration.
The note from the Club advises ship owners to carry out large-scale rescue drills and to have “detailed plans for accommodating and disembarking” rescued migrants.
The spokesman confirmed to IHS Maritime as “very unlikely” that it would in future require proof of large scale rescue drills having been conducted.
Moreover, the Club said, “Shipping companies are highly unlikely to be penalised by their P&I insurers for failure to hold large scale drills, as there is no requirement in P&I rules, or under international regulations, to conduct such drills.”
The spokesman also said that P&I Rules are “designed to support ship owners by meeting certain costs when discharging their moral and legal obligations to rescue those in distress at sea”.
Asked how Clubs can support their members at this time, the spokesman said that providing “an efficient claims service” was a priority. He said that management of rescues off Libya are “pretty well organised by the local authorities and fairly quick (relatively speaking) and we are finding that members need very little help with the logistics of embarking and disembarking the migrants. However, this may not be the case in other parts of the world such as off Yemen.”
However, those at sea may not be of this view. Speaking to IHS Maritime earlier in the week, Campbell Shipping’s dedicated person ashore, Captain Rajesh Dhadwal, said that ships in the Mediterranean are being left to “bear the brunt” of rescues and that diplomatic and at-sea leadership and co-ordination are desperately needed.
Dhadwal co-ordinated from shore what is thought to be the largest rescue in the Mediterranean. In October 2014, bulk carrier CS Caprice picked up 510 migrants, and took care of the group for nearly three days as the ship waited to find a berth at a suitable port in Italy.
He said, “When we picked up that group of people, we did not know where we would be able to take them; we did not know how long they would be with us,” which put the ship and the company at two major risks: the migrant boat had refused to be rescued unless the destination was Italy, and yet the ship was under a legal obligation to carry out the rescue; and second, the passengers could mutiny if the ship headed to the ‘wrong’ port, while inclement weather initially made entry to the port impossible.
To cover themselves legally, Capt Dhadwal ordered the ship’s captain, Joshua Perris Bhatt, to video record the ship’s request to the migrant boat to come alongside to be rescued. Meanwhile, Capt Dhadwal rapidly pursued port options with the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Malta.
“We need clear guidelines explaining, in the Mediterranean Sea, within these boundaries, migrants should be taken to such and such a place, or reported to so and so. These guidelines have to be in place,” Capt Dhadwal stressed. He added that leadership guidelines during rescue operations should also be in place.
“A typical marine rescue will have a chain of command, with a leader and an on-scene commander, which should be the NATO forces or the coastguard,” he said, adding that other entities then come in to assist with other aspects of the rescue. He said that rescue centres should contact NATO or coastguard forces first, which would then co-ordinate the operation, including contacting the merchant ship called on to assist.