Search and rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 remains blocked in Malta's ports in spite of confirmation by the Dutch government that its registration is in order, Sea-Watch said in statement.
A report by inspectors at Holland’s transport inspectorate found that the vessel was listed on the country’s shipping registry, had all certificates required and equipment in good working order.
The Sea-Watch 3 had been blocked in port for almost one month, with the Maltese government having stopped migrant sea rescue ships from entering or leaving local ports.
That 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.
The Lifeline’s captain is in court on charges related to the vessel's registration.
In an email dated July 4, local authorities told the Sea-Watch 3 captain that they wanted further clarification about various matters, “including whether the vessel has a flag state, the certification of the vessel for the intended operation, certification of equipment on board, the certification, qualifications and competence of the crew, adequate insurance to cover liabilities when the vessel is navigating in local waters and any other matters as may arise.”
Authorities told the captain that documents provided were “not sufficient” and that it was therefore being denied permission to proceed to sea.
From today on, Maltese authorities will have to take full responsibility for every dead person, that could have been saved but wasn’t
Dutch inspectors flew to Malta and inspected the vessel some days later. Their report has now found that the ship has a certificate of registry issued by the Netherlands dated October 2017 as a “non-commercial motor yacht.”
Read: Impounded migrant rescue ships still awaiting answers
It also found that the vessel has valid certificates and licenses related to its class, radio station, tonnage, oil separation, sewage treatment and insurance policies. All documentation was available for inspection, Dutch investigators found.
In a statement issued on Wednesday announcing the report, Sea-Watch said that the Dutch report confirmed that the Maltese government was using “flimsy arguments” to play for time while people found themselves in distress at sea.
The organisation said: “The detainment of our ship for random investigations without any indication of wrongdoing was a farce from the very beginning. We are still blocked from leaving port, although Dutch inspectors requested by Malta have confirmed the accuracy of our registration.”
“This is clearly not about paperwork, it's a political campaign against the civil sea rescue fleet. From today on, Maltese authorities will have to take full responsibility for every dead person, that could have been saved but wasn’t,” Sea-Watch chairman Johannes Bayer said.
Mr Bayer said that its vessel was registered as a non-commercial motor vessel (pleasure craft) because that was the most suitable registration for the ship under Dutch law, since there was no specific ship class for search and rescue vessels.
“This is a collective punishment, just as if the port of Hamburg would retain all container ships, only because one might or might not have an issue with its papers,” Mr Bayer said.
Captain Pia Kemp said it was hard to explain why the vessel continued to be blocked.
How can it be that our ship is still blocked in Malta? even if the seafarer nation of the Netherlands that checked the registration and safety standards on the ship for nearly a month with senior experts, came to the conclusion that everything is in order with our ship?” she asked.