The shipowning organizations ECSA (European Community Shipowners' Associations) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) together with the trade unions European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), have written a joint letter to the 28 Member States EU to urge immediate collective action to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean that is now out of control.
From the 2014 thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East, embarking on overcrowded boats and unsuitable for the purpose, have attempted the dangerous crossing of the sea to arrive in Europe.
ECSA, ETF, ICS and ITF have asked EU Member States to give absolute priority to increasing the resources allocated to Search and Rescue Operations (SAR) in the Mediterranean, taking into account the high and increasing number of potentially dangerous rescues that are carried out by merchant ships.
Over the past year, over 40.000 people have been rescued from merchant ships and more than 3.500 have lost their lives.
The maritime transport sector - stresses ECSA, ETF, ICS and ITF - fully assumes its responsibilities in saving anyone in danger at sea, but emphasizes that it is unacceptable that the international community increasingly relies on merchant ships and their crews to undertake an ever-increasing number of rescues that are ever more extensive. Single ships have had to save up to 500 people at a time, with serious risks to the health and well-being of seafarers, who should not take on such situations.
The military navies and coast guards of those EU Member States that are at the forefront of the Mediterranean have made considerable efforts to tackle the problem, but given that the situation is worsening, the shipping industry believes there must be a corresponding increase in state financial resources for SAR operations to deal with this serious humanitarian crisis.
"In practice this means that all EU Member States have to share the financial burden, in order to prevent the loss of thousands more lives".
In the ECSA letter, ETF, ICS and ITF also suggest that the EU and the international community provide refugees and migrants with alternative means of obtaining security, without risking their lives across the Mediterranean on insecure ships, and request that the issue be on the agenda of the European Council and the relevant meetings of EU ministers.
In addition to ECSA, ETF, ICS and ITF, the letter to EU member states was also supported by BIMCO, Intercargo, Interferry, InterManager, Intertanko and World Shipping Council.