Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

The migrant problem

Posted on | June 17, 2015 | No Comments

No great decisions over “unsafe mixed migration by sea” were taken at the latest meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, despite plenty of agreement about the urgency of the situation. But how is a UN technical organisation ever going to materially change things, when the main political bodies in both New York and in Brussels are unable to propose anything that will really make a difference to this modern-day Exodus? Merchant shipping must adapt and “go with the flow” just as it always has, using common sense and seamanship when desperate people on dangerous craft are sighted.

At the same time, there is a sort of feeling in Europe that we are moving towards some sort of crisis over the migrants, with Italy, which has borne the burden of coping with these legions of the lost, losing patience with the its fellow European states. With no agreement on the resettlement of asylum seekers and the French effectively closing their borders to migrants wishing to move North, it could be that the Italian “Plan B” will be invoked. This unspecified threat, it has been suggested, could involve the hard-pressed Italians refusing permission to foreign ships to land people picked up at sea. Just imagine the chaos this will cause, if merchant ships with migrants aboard find that there is no ability to quickly offload their “guests” at the at the nearest Sicilian or Italian port. Where else would they take them?

It could be a bargaining ploy, but there is no doubt that Italy and Greece (which has enough problems of its own) are felling notably aggrieved at their position on the “front line”. Something has to give. But what? The chance is that the commercial shipping industry, which still rescuing large numbers, will be damaged, in one way, or another.


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