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Humanitarian Service Point @ Sea: Central Mediterranean Sea | Population movement - 2021 Operation Final Report (Appeal №: MDR65005)

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OPERATION TIMELINE

Context

2013-2016: The Italian navy launches Operation Mare Nostrum, which ends in 2014 creating a notable gap in state Search & Rescue (SAR) services. In response the Italian Red Cross, supported by the IFRC and sister National Societies, was engaged in maritime Search and Rescue Operations in cooperation with the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in 2016. SOS MEDITERRANEE was founded in May 2015; since then, it has been rescuing, protecting, and assisting over 34 000 persons in distress at sea.

Preparations

19 July 2021: IFRC issues an Emergency Appeal for 2 million Swiss francs to provide assistance to migrants in distress at sea on the Central Mediterranean Route, entering an operational partnership with the NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE. IFRC and SOS MED work on operational planning and preparations, finalizing partnership arrangements. Mobilization of resources and internal and external information.

24 July 2021: Ocean Viking starts her rotation #14.

31 July 2021: The teams on Ocean Viking rescues 196 people in 4 different operations

1 August 2021: The partnership between IFRC and SOSMED enters into force.

1 - 11 August 2021: two rescue operations take place, 359 people are rescued from dangerous boats and brought to safety. Six people are medically evacuated from the vessel in 3 different operations, and eventually, 549 people are disembarked during a 4-day long disembarkation in Pozzallo (Sicily) between the 8 and 11 of August. Time between latest rescue operation and disembarkation was 6 full days.

Following disembarkation, as per Italian authorities COVID19 protocols, the vessel and her crew were put under quarantine, and due to COVID cases developing among the crew, said quarantine was extended until 2 September. Ship then transited back to Marseille (France) where she arrived on 7 September. The portcall in Marseille lasted 7 days, which were dedicated to regular resupply, maintenance, preparation and training of crew, with a specific focus on the onboarding of the first IFRC team members (5 people).

Rotation 15.1

13 September 2021: The first rotation of the MV Ocean Viking with IFRC onboard starts from Marseille / France.

13 September to 04 October 2021: During 5 rescue operations which took place between the 18 and 20 September, 129 people were brought to safety, and 7 of them were medically evacuated in two operations which took place on the 20 and 23. 122 survivors were eventually disembarked in Augusta on 25 September (time between latest rescue operation and disembarkation was 4 full days), and the vessel and her crew were quarantined until the 4 October 2021. While initial planning had initially been to continue with rotation #15.2, due to the late date and the need for the ship to have her mandatory annual reinspection of life-saving appliances (LSA), the Ocean Viking then sailed towards a shipyard in Napoli (Italy) where she arrived on 7 October 2021.

7 - 26 October, in Napoli, the ship had her LSA revised and certified (15 days), other maintenance works implemented and a regular portcall dedicated to crew change, resupply, handovers and training of the on signing crew. This port of call was also an opportunity to exchange first lessons learned on the partnership development between IFRC and SOS MEDITERRANEE teams.

Rotation 15.2

26 October - Rotation #15.2 left Napoli with a crew of 33 including 6 IFRC crew members. After a stop in Augusta on 28 October during which 233,9 cubic meters of MGO were bunkered, 314 people were rescued in 4 separated operations between the 2 and 4 of November. Two medical evacuations took place on the 6 and 7 November (8 people evacuated) and a total of 306 survivors were disembarked in Augusta on the 11 and 12 of the same month. Time between latest rescue operation and disembarkation was 6 full days. The ship was not requested to undergo any quarantine and therefore transited back towards Marseille where she arrived on the 17 November 2021.

The following regular portcall, that was initially planned for a week with usual crew changes, resupply and maintenances, eventually lasted 2,5 weeks due to extreme bad winter weather over the Mediterranean that rendered our presence at sea unnecessary. This extended portcall was taken as an opportunity to further lessons learn between the IFRC and SOS MEDITERRANEE, and to enhance teams drilling and preparation.

Rotation 16

5 December - The last mission of the year started as rotation #16 left Marseille with an IFRC crew of 6 people. The continuing bad and extreme weather seriously disorganised the initial rotation planning as the ship had to shelter in Syracuse (Sicily) between the 10 and 13, on her way to the Central Mediterranean.
Eventually, 114 people could be rescued during a single operation on the 16 December. All were safely disembarked in Trapani on 25 December (time between latest rescue operation and disembarkation was 8 full days) after which the ship and her crew were ordered to quarantine.

On 31 December 2021, the Ocean Viking was on her 6th day of quarantine in Trapani.

LOOKING AHEAD

1 January 2022 – The operation transitions into a long-term, sustainable programming modality.
In 2021, 15 National Societies supported this operation, through funding and/or provision of staff. IFRC is grateful for all the support received and works on maintaining and further expanding the range of supporters in 2022, to be able to continue saving lives and respond to the unrelenting humanitarian imperative in the Central Mediterranean.

In 2021, the HSP@SEA operation was kick-started through an Emergency Appeal that ended in December 2021. The operation continues in 2022, as part of the Operational Plan of the IFRC Regional Office for Europe, with a yearly funding need of CHF 2,4 million.

For more information on the 2022 HSP@SEA, please visit: https://go.ifrc.org/emergencies/5425#data