Sea Watch 3 finally released after being held for seven months for ‘absurd’ reasons

Court’s decision on Sea Watch’s legal challenge against the detention of its ships expected next week

The NGO refugee rescue ship Sea Watch 3 was finally allowed to leave port today, seven months after the Italian port authorities detained it for a slew of supposed safety irregularities.

Sea Watch spokeswoman Mattea Weihe told The Civil Fleet today that the ship had already begun preparing to return to sea.

“What’s happening now is, the Sea Watch 3 is conducting training sessions and assessing the situation,” she said.

“And as soon as everything is going well, they’re going to head south to the SAR zone.”

After the ship was granted a single voyage permit, the Sea Watch 3 headed back to Spain for maintenance.

While there the ship was reverified by the maritime authorities in Germany, under whose flag the Sea Watch 3 flies, and was confirmed to be safe and ready to sail by the Spanish authorities.

Sea Watch is currently fighting a legal battle against the Italian port authorities’ decision to detain the Sea Watch 3 and its other ship, Sea Watch 4, last summer and the case has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

Two of the supposed safety failings the Italian authorities highlighted on the Sea Watch 4 were that it was carrying too many life vests and that its toilets were not designed for everyone the ship might rescue.

“We are fighting the injustice and absurd regulations imposed on us and on all the other NGO ships as well,” Ms Weihe said.

“The Sea Watch 4 is still in Palermo in Italy. And as soon as we have the confirmation from the court, (due on February 23), we will then prepare for the next mission with the Sea Watch 4 as soon as possible.

“We see the situation in the Mediterranean with our airplanes (Seabird and Moonbird) and we know how much need there is for rescue ships to be out there. This is why we’re doing everything we can to get back to sea.

“And this is also why we’re doing this court case. It takes a little more time but in the end if we win this, then that means all these port-state controls cannot be carried out in the absurd way that they have been used on all NGO ships.

“This could be a game changer for the whole SAR community.”


Top image shows the Sea Watch 3 at sea [Photo: Jon Stone / Nick Jaussi / Seawatch]

Published by Ben Cowles

Is a journalist and podcaster

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