The Sea-Watch 3 search-and-rescue ship enters the port of Catania, Italy | Photo: ANSA/ORIETTA SCARDINO
The Sea-Watch 3 search-and-rescue ship enters the port of Catania, Italy | Photo: ANSA/ORIETTA SCARDINO

Germany’s non-profit Sea-Watch has announced it would resume its mission to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. On Tuesday, the organization had achieved a partial success at a Dutch court, giving the NGO more time to meet new safety regulations.

After being sidelined in April over safety regulations, Germany's Sea-Watch aid organization said on Tuesday that it plans to resume its migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean.

The Sea-Watch 3 ship, which sails under a Dutch flag, has until August 15 to fulfill new safety regulations suddenly put forward on April 2 by the Dutch Water Management Ministry, a Dutch court ruled on Tuesday. 

The Dutch Water Management Ministry had denied Sea-Watch a transition period for making the necessary changes to comply with the new safety regulations and Sea-Watch filed a complaint in return. Now, the court in The Hague found that the safety regulations were legal, but that the transition time was far too short. Furthermore, the ruling said, the ministry must make clear which requirements the ship must meet.

Following an inspection by Dutch authorities in mid-February, the Netherlands asked Italian authorities to keep the Sea-Watch 3 in the port of Catania.

Currently, the Sea-Watch 3 is in the French city of Marseilles, where it has been stranded since it was no longer allowed to disembark due to the new regulations imposed by the Netherlands.

New safety regulations for NGOs

According to Dutch online publication NL Times, minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said in a letter to parliament the new safety rules apply to all ships belonging to "organizations with idealistic objectives" that sail under the Dutch flag.

NGO ships must adhere to “stricter requirements in the area of safety and crew,” including “construction of and available equipment on the ship, its fire safety, its emergency equipment, and the training of the crew,” the article from April 2 reads.

“For every group of people who are taken on board, long negotiations take place to determine which countries are willing to take people in before the ship can enter port. As a result, ships must be longer at sea with large groups of people on board,” the minister was quoted further. "This changed situation can entail major safety risks."

In an online statement from April 2, Sea-Watch said the new Dutch policy had “severe implications” on NGOs. “The policy change, implemented hastily and without a transition period for Sea-Watch, demonstrates the lengths the Dutch government is willing to go to, to hinder civil society actors from their operations,” the NGO said.

Mare Jonio still stuck in Sicily

In late April, Sea-Watch's rescue ship Mare Jonio, which rescued 49 migrants off Libya in March, had been declared unfit for rescue operations at sea by the Italian coastguard.

The boat was sanctioned for irregularities on board, the coastguard said in a statement, concluding that the ship did not meet rescue operation standards.

In mid-April, Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini signed a directive against charity vessels rescuing migrants off Libya.

With material from dpa

More articles