Government warns Salamis’s local agent to take migrants back to Tripoli

Government writes to tanker’s agent warning the vessel must proceed to Tripoli and to make arrangements with Libyan authorities to disembark the migrants ‘without further delay’.

Miriam Dalli
5 August 2013, 12:00am
MT Salamis
MT Salamis

Adds comments by aditus

The Maltese government has written to Seatrans Shipping Limited, the local agent for MT Salamis, requesting the tanker to turn back to the port of Khom in Tripoli and to make arrangements with the competent Libyan authorities to disembark the 102 migrants without futher delay.

In a letter sent to agent Trevor Sullivan through the deputy attorney general, the government said the captain's actions have resulted in a situation which is prejudical to the government, creating an expectation that Malta "should shoulder international obligations which would never have been incumbent upon it had it not been for the Master's persistent failure to comply with the international legal regime and with instructions received".

Depsite written correspondence between Italy and Malta showing the Italian rescue centre ordering the Liberian-flagged oil tanker to rescue the migrants and take them back to the nearest port of call, the MT Salamis' captain opted to steer ahead and sail to Malta, as his original port of call.

The tanker is carrying oil destined for Malta.

The ship's representative has meanwhile claimed the captian had been instructed by Italy to proceed to Malta - something which both Italy and Malta deny.

"The Maltese government therefore calls upon the Master to proceed to that location which represented the nearest place of safety at the time of rescue and to mkae arrangements with the competent local authorities of that place to disembark the rescued persons without further delay," the deputy attorney general wrote.

The government warned it was reserving the right to take all legal action warranted against the Master, the vessel and the owners or operators. It also declared it was holding Seatrans Shipping Ltd responsible for any damages and other costs.

Aditus urges disembarkation at safe port 

In a reaction, human rights NGO aditus expressed their disagreement with the AG's declaration that MT Salamis violated international law.  

"On the contrary, the captain fulfilled a sacrosant obligation of rescuing persons in distress and is now being punished for it!" Aditus said, adding the shipmaster Was insisting on refusing to take asylum-seekers to Libya.

Libya, aditus said, is a country that simply cannot be defined as safe due to the way migrants and asylum-seekers are treated there.

"By ordering him to return the rescued persons to Libya, the Maltese government is ordering the ship master to violate international human rights law, international refugee law and international maritime law.  We reiterate our urgent appeal to Italy and to Malta to ensure disembarkation at a port that is safe, and to the EU to intervene to assist in finding an appropriate solution to this incident," it added.

Miriam Dalli joined in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...