Italy’s costly detention of rescue ship scotches Sea-Eye’s humanitarian mission

Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi sold to Italian NGO ResQ after detention of ship by the Italians placed a heavy financial burden on Sea-Eye

The ‘Alan Kurdi’ had documented the rescue of refugees by the ‘El Hiblu 1’ (Photo: Fabian Heinz/
The ‘Alan Kurdi’ had documented the rescue of refugees by the ‘El Hiblu 1’ (Photo: Fabian Heinz/

The German civil sea-rescue organization Sea-Eye has parted with its rescue ship Alan Kurdi, after costs from the frequent detention of the boat by Italian authorities forced it to sell it for €400,000 to the Italian NGO ResQ.

The ship will now operate under the name ResQ PEOPLE, while Sea-Eye will only conduct rescue missions with the SEA-EYE 4.

“It was a difficult decision for us, but it was also a rational one,” said Gorden Isler, Sea-Eye chairman.

Isler said the detention of the German-flagged rescue ship by the Italians had placed a heavy financial burden on Sea-Eye. The boat was twice detained on what Sea-Eye calls flimsy grounds, and succeeded in having the boat released both times only after lengthy discussions and with legal means.

“The detention of the civil rescue ships not only prevents Sea-Eye from doing its work, but also costs enormous sums of money for port and legal fees,” Isler said. “We are grateful that this special ship remains in service of rescue. If there are organisations that have two ships and few resources, then you have to start a discussion with friends who have resources and are looking for a ship. We are actually living the spirit of European cooperation, just like we demand it from the EU states.”

The Alan Kurdiwas the first rescue ship to fly the German flag and was used for the first time in December 2018. In total, Sea-Eye sent the boat on 12 rescue missions to save 927 lives. Around 240 crew members went on missions on this vessel.

“We are grateful to all donors and partners who have sent this ship on rescue missions with us for more than two years. But our very special thanks go to the Kurdi family,” Isler said.

Abdullah and Tima Kurdi, father and aunt of the drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, christened the ship in February 2019.
“We thank Abdullah and Tima for their trust and support. It was not easy for the family to endure all the ghastly hate speech that was posted online. But the Alan Kurdi was an important symbol and an appeal to Europe for two years. We are now giving the name back into the hands of the family, to whom we will remain deeply connected in the future.”