Transport authorities have written to their Dutch counterparts insisting that NGO vessel Sea-Watch 3 was not registered to carry out search and rescue operations, the Times of Malta can report.

The Sea-Watch 3 crew last week said the vessel remained blocked in Malta’s ports in spite of confirmation by the Dutch government that its registration was in order.

The NGO had said that a report by inspectors at the Dutch transport inspectorate found the vessel was listed on the country’s shipping registry, had all certificates required, and the equipment was in good working order. 

The Sea-Watch 3 has been blocked in port for around a month, with the Maltese government having stopped migrant sea rescue ships from entering or leaving local ports amid rising tensions in the region.

The decision was prompted by investigations against the captain of another Dutch-flagged rescue ship, the MV Lifeline, due to potential issues with Lifeline’s registration.

A political campaign to stop civil rescue at sea

Sea Watch, however, has countered this, insisting it was being delayed as part of a political game and not due to issues with paperwork.

“Since the Sea-Watch 3 is not registered in the sport boat list, as is the case for other NGOs but in the royal shipping register as a Dutch seagoing vessel, fully entitled to fly the Dutch flag, the lack of permission to sail from Malta turns out not to be a registration issue, but a political campaign to stop civil rescue at sea,” the NGO had said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Times of Malta is informed that the Maltese Harbour Master and the maritime section of Transport Malta have written to the Dutch authorities contesting the status of the ship.

Sources said local authorities were arguing, among other things, that the vessel still required a certificate of registry reflecting the type of vessel as was being declared by the NGO, and certification in line with the applicable international conventions.

Local authorities had last month told the Sea-Watch 3 captain that they wanted further clarification about various matters.

Authorities had told the captain that documents provided were “not sufficient” and that it was therefore being denied permission to proceed to sea. Dutch authorities then flew to Malta and inspected the vessel some days later. Their report found that the ship had a certificate of registry issued by the Netherlands dated October 2017 as a “non-commercial motor yacht.”

It also found that the vessel had valid certificates and licences related to its class, radio station, tonnage, oil separation, sewage treatment and insurance policies.

All documentation was available for inspection, the Dutch investigators said.

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