Press release by MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans published on the 11th of September 2023

In the last few hours, the Italian government’s willingness to hinder and block civil rescue ships has taken another negative leap forward: the authorities have ordered the shipping company of our MARE JONIO to “remove from the ship, before her departure, any equipment and supplies on board for the performance of rescue service”. Failure to comply with this order would constitute a breach of Article 650 of the Penal Code, which carries a penalty of up to three months’ imprisonment and a fine.

The order and the intimidation came at the end of the inspection visit carried out by the Italian Maritime Authorities on board the MARE JONIO, the only asset of the civil rescue fleet flying the Italian flag.

After a long, thorough, and severe inspection, which in fact began on the 22nd of August and ended on the 6th of September, all the documents allowing the MARE JONIO to sail were renewed, but its “rescue ship” certification was once again refused.

The “bureaucratic” pretexts are well known: despite the fact that the ship is recognised as well equipped for search and rescue (SAR) activities and has been certified for this purpose by the Italian Naval Register (RINA), it does not meet the criteria of two Circulars issued by the Authorities in December 2021 and February 2022, which require certain technical characteristics of the hull in accordance with the international SPS Code issued in May 2008. An absurd demand in itself, made worse by the fact that the Italian government wants to make this the standard for all European flags, thus hampering the entire Civil Fleet.

Over the last few years we thought we had seen it all in the Italian governments’ senseless war against civil sea rescue: codes of conduct and closed ports, instrumental controls and technical detentions, investigations for aiding and abetting illegal immigration and million-euro fines, most recently selective landings, distant ports and unjustified administrative detentions.

But today’s absurd order to the MARE JONIO to disembark rescue equipment is a further step taken in the direction of inhumanity: what sense does it make to order a ship that is preparing to sail the most dangerous and deadly stretch of sea on the planet – where more than 2,300 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the year – to deprive herself of life jackets, inflatable boats, medicines and medical equipment and whatever else is needed to save lives in danger?

This order is simply outrageous and unacceptable to us, as is the threat of criminal consequences for our shipowners.

Together with many others, we reject it and will immediately challenge it at every level.