Maritime News

200 overboard and 34 drown as migrant boat capsizes

26 May 2017

About 200 people fell overboard and 34 drowned, including children, as an overcrowded migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea 20 nautical miles off Libya. The boat was carrying more than 500 migrants when it listed, sending people into the water.

Rescue boats from the Italian coastguard and a humanitarian group went to the scene, as well as Italian, British and Spanish navy vessels; a helicopter and military aircraft dropped lifeboats for the survivors.

The incident followed Italian coastguard rescues of 1,800 people from 10 separate vessels in the area on the previous day.

About 1,364 migrants and refugees have drowned so far this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, according to United Nations estimates. There are concerns that more passengers are drowning although fewer are making the perilous crossing, as people smugglers cram migrants and refugees into unseaworthy boats and dinghies.

Despite the fall in numbers, merchant vessels are increasingly involved in search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean. According to figures from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, while 4 percent of 1,629 incidents in 2016 involved assistance from merchant vessels, in 2017 to date they have assisted in 12 percent of the 470 incidents.

Merchant ships have an obligation under international maritime law to help people in distress at sea. However, there are concerns that such vessels are not equipped and crews are not trained for large-scale rescues of the type taking place in the Mediterranean.


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