The administrative detention of the ship Ocean Viking was lifted following an inspection by the Italian coast guard. The ship, operated by SOS Mediterranee, had been blocked for five months in Porto Empedocle. It will now resume search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya.
The Ocean Viking ship, operated by the charity SOS Mediterranee is back at sea. Following an inspection by the Italian coast guard, the administrative block was lifted that had held the rescue ship in Porto Empedocle for five months.
The ship will travel to Marseille to resupply and take on medical and rescue teams, whose members will undergo a preventative quarantine prior to embarking, and then will resume search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya.
The announcement by SOS Mediterranee
"Since the detention on July 22, we have been continuously working on the release of the ship," SOS Mediterranee said.
"Modifications to emergency equipment were made at the shipyard in Augusta, in order to meet the requirements which initially motivated the detention. On December 21, following a third inspection, the Ocean Viking was considered compliant with the interpretation of ship safety regulations by the Italian authorities and the detention of the ship was therefore lifted," it said.
'The end of a race against time'
SOS Mediterranee Director of Operations Frédéric Penard said Monday marked "the end of a lengthy, costly and difficult race against time."
"Our teams have worked day and night over the past five months so that the ship could set sail and save lives again. Meanwhile, hundreds of people died at sea. It has been beyond painful for us as seafarers to be prevented from rescuing on the basis that NGO ships were suddenly no longer considered safe enough by Italian authorities," Penard said.
Modifications to the ship included adding larger life rafts that can carry 100 people each. The ship was also equipped with additional emergency life jackets and immersion suits, all of which "has been duly registered within the ship certification and was inspected by the Italian Port State Control officers."