The Sea-Watch 4 was inaugurated in Kiel on February 20, 2020 | Photo: Sea-Watch
The Sea-Watch 4 was inaugurated in Kiel on February 20, 2020 | Photo: Sea-Watch

The United4Rescue initiative backed by the Protestant Church in Germany has inaugurated a new ship to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. The 'Sea-Watch 4' is set to go on its first mission in April.

The ship was named "Sea-Watch 4" in a ceremony in the port city Kiel in northern Germany on Thursday, attended by politicians, church leaders and other guests. The 45-year-old vessel, formerly used for research purposes, will now be used to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The first mission will start in April, according to organizers.

United4Rescue, an initiative led by the Protestant church in Germany (EKD) and backed by more than 400 other organizations, managed to acquire the ship around ten weeks after it launched the crowdfunding campaign #WirschickeneinSchiff (which translates to "We send a ship") to finance its sea rescue efforts.

At the inauguration, the head of EKD, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, made an appeal to European heads of state to fulfill their humanitarian responsibilities. "One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion," he said. 

"This ship has to be out there because European states do not intend, nor do they manage to rescue people in the Mediterranean," Bedford-Strohm added.

Sea-Watch to operate the ship

As part of the ceremony, the new ship was handed over to the German NGO Sea-Watch that will operate the ship in addition to its current Sea-Watch 3 vessel.

The Sea-Watch 4 is bigger than the Sea-Watch 3: The new ship has capacity for around 300 people under normal conditions. In cases of emergency however, the ship can hold up to 900 people for a short period of time, said Johannes Bayer, head of Sea-Watch. The crew will be made up of 26 people, volunteers and employees, who will head out on four-week missions, the press agency epd reports.

In a few days, the ship will sail from Kiel to the Spanish port of Burriana where it will undergo further refurbishments. According to media reports, the Sea-Watch 4 will have a special "safe" area with 24 beds for women and children.

There are two spots on board for medical treatment and the crew is prepared to treat typical symptons like dehydration, bruises or petrol burns, explained Jan Schill, a doctor who has already taken part in three Sea-Watch missions. These injuries are common for migrants traveling on unseaworthy boats. However, the Sea-Watch 4 medical unit is not equipped to treat severe medical emergencies.

With epd, KNA, dpa


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