The Teekay-owned Copper Spirit tanker recently carried out two migrant rescues back-to-back in the Mediterranean, before continuing to an Italian destination. This is a departure from the usual protocol followed by NGO rescue vessels, which commonly face legal consequences when undertaking similar activities. An Italian law makes it illegal for ships carrying migrants to undertake more than one rescue operation per journey.
In this scenario, the Copper Spirit was directed to head to the location of a boat in distress by the Italian MRCC on 8 May. The tanker reached the vessel under the cover of darkness and managed to rescue all the 35 people on board. The ship was then instructed to head north to another boat in distress which had 72 people on board. The rescue was efficient, and all occupants were successfully saved. As a result, the tanker reached the Catania port with 107 survivors and left without any problems to head towards Milazzo refinery.
Teekay issued a statement applauding the professionalism and the duty performed by its crew and referred to the act as contributing to the overall safety of 107 individuals. NGOs have been pursuing such rescue missions, but they have faced detention or fines due to the unique Italian law. The state prohibits migrant rescue ships from carrying out more than a single rescue operation per journey. A recent government decree law imposed fines of more than $50,000 and two months detention of the ship if found to be violating such mandates.
NGO SAR vessels had previously remained in the transit zone for multiple days, enduring multiple rescues. The practical matter has changed, and they are now instructed to continue to the port for disembarkation at maximum speed with no additional stops.