Updated Monday 11.40
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has warned migrant rescue ship Aquarius it will again not be allowed to dock in an Italian port, just two days after it set out on a fresh rescue mission.
The Aquarius is heading back to its rescue haunt off Libya after what its operators described as 'an extended technical port call in Marseille'.
????La nave Ong #Aquarius2 questa mattina in navigazione a Sud della Sardegna, verso il Canale di Sicilia.— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) September 17, 2018
Ha cambiato nome (aggiungendo un “2”) e bandiera, ma non cambierà destinazione finale: NON in Italia! #portichiusi pic.twitter.com/8UGr4jQNzh
The ship has already been at the heart of two stand-offs involving Italy and Malta. Italy banned the ship in June and in August. Malta did likewise in June and after a lengthy standoff the ship ended up having to sail to Valencia where it disembarked some 600 migrants.
Last month the ship was allowed to berth in Malta to disembark 141 migrants after agreement was reached with several EU countries to take the migrants.
The ship then left for Marseille on August 16.
UPDATE: The #Aquarius is now headed back to international waters after an extended technical port call in #Marseille. We will be sailing for at least 3 days before reaching the int'l search & rescue zone in the Central #Mediterranean. pic.twitter.com/PVxOSjPH1S— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) September 15, 2018
SOS Mediterranee, which operates the ship together with Medicins sans Frontieres had said at the time that the ship was heading for Marseille following a request by the ship owner in order to clarify political and administrative issues raised by the Gibraltar maritime authorities, under whose flag the ship was registered at the time.
The government of Gibraltar had put Aquarius on notice of removal of its registration after it ignored orders to suspend operations as a rescue vessel and revert to its role as a survey ship, as registered.
While the ship was in Marseille it was announced that it would be registered in Panama instead.
The Aquarius is the last remaining vessels conducting search and rescue missions in the central Mediterranean, with Italy having shut its ports to NGO ships in June and Malta having denied such vessels permission to leave its ports, citing concerns about ship registration anomalies.
The ship is expected to arrive off Libya in the middle of the week.
Another rescue NGO, Sea Watch, reported on Sunday that it had been alerted to a dinghy in distress with some 100 people on board. It informed Rome rescue coordination centre who in turn called the Libyan authorities, but nothing had happened. The situation had still not changed on Monday
Since 6 hours now no actions are taken concerning a rubber boat in distress with app. 100 ppl that @PVolontaires #Colibri spotted earlier. MRCC Rome is informed but referring to Libyan authorities, that are not responding. It’s #IMRCC responsibility to take necessary steps NOW! pic.twitter.com/FKYioZOdae— Sea-Watch (@seawatchcrew) September 16, 2018