On December 22, 2018 following a distress call, the Sea-Watch 3 carried out a rescue operation where it saved 32 people from an unseaworthy vessel off the coast of Libya. After the rescue a port of safety is requested to all yet involved RCCs (JRCC Den Helder , RCC Malta, so-called LYCG, MRCC Bremen, MRCC La Garde-France, MRCC Madrid) and the ship heads north. After
several denied requests for a port of safety the Sea-Watch heads south on December 27 after being informed by MRCC Rome via INMARSAT messages 11972 and 11973 of another distress case (SAR Event 1013).

The message is sent by MRCC Rome “on behalf of the Libyan Navy Coast Guard” who is coordinating the case and that “any ship at sea which is in a position to provide assistance is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance”.
SW3 suspends the efforts to assist SAR Event 1013 after 2 days of unsuccessful search and sails north again. At the same time the rescue ship of German NGO Sea-Eye rescues 17 people.

Since the rescue on the 22nd December, the Sea-Watch 3 has now been stranded at sea as European countries refuse a permission for the ship to dock.

On December 31 and January 1 the weather deteriorates heavily and medical conditions raising serious concerns as already weakened and malnourished people become seasick.

On January 3nd, 2019 and after 11 days the Sea-Watch 3 was given permission to move closer to Malta in order to take shelter from the bad weather, however it is still not allowed to disembark. At the same time the Netherlands announce that it could welcome some of the migrants if other European countries did the same.

When in sight of the Maltese coast and due to extensive pressure and uncertainties upon the further development of the situation, a person that was rescued from the rubber boat jumped off the Sea-Watch 3 into the sea in a desperate attempt to reach Malta. He was helped back on board instantly, as cold water as well as the distance to Maltese coast did bear an imminent
danger to his life.

On January 4th, two supply vessels organized by the United4Med alliance were providing logistic and material support for the ship. The current crew disembarks offshore and a new crew takes over. With the new crew a delegation of German parliamentarians, church representatives and SW Italy advocacy reps visit the Sea-Watch 3 to witness the circumstances of the rescued people.

Finally, on January 9th, after 19 days at sea, Malta allowed the disembarkation of the rescued people in the port of Valletta. The disembarkation was granted after an ad-hoc agreement was reached among many European countries.According to such an agreement, the people would be send to Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy

SAR case number: N.A

SAR organisation: Sea Watch

Incident type: EU MRCC denying entry to EU port

Date of SAR (UTC): 22/12/2018

Time of first information received (UTC): 22/02/2019 8:33 am

Source of first information for the NGO: Aircraft Colibri operated by Sea-Watch and Pilotes Volontaires

Starting time of first sighting / engagement with target boat in distress (UTC): 22/02/2019 10:39 am


Number of migrant boats: 1

Type of migrant boat(s): Inflatable rubber boat

Number of people on board per boat: 32

Other vessels in the vicinity (e.g. unidentified / cargo / aircrafts): N.A

Actors involved (by asset / institution type): Sea eye (Vessel Prof. Albrecht Penck)


Region of Mediterranean: Central Mediterranean

Position(s) of vessel(s) in distress at the time of SAR request:

Latitude: 33° 17´ N

Longitude: 12° 32´ E

Location description: High seas

Approximate distance from coast line: N.A

Position(s) of rescue(s) at the time of SAR operation(s):

Latitude: 33° 26.9´ N

Longitude: 12° 14.2´ E

Location description: High seas

Approximate distance from coast line: Approximately 29 NE of Abu Kamesh

Country of disembarkation: Malta


Total number of survivors: 32

Number of identified (accompanied) children: 3

Number of identified unaccompanied minors: 4

Number of identified pregnant women: 0


Total number of confirmed deaths: 0

Estimated number of dead / missing persons: 0

Involved in this incident