13/09: 5 travellers left adrift for two and a half days

14.09.2017 / 19:53 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 13th of September 2017

Case name: 2017_09_13-WM160
Situation: 5 travellers left adrift, finally rescued by Moroccan fishermen
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Western Mediterranean

Summary of the Cases: On Wednesday the 13th of September at 4.15am a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a boat carrying five travellers, and forwarded us their phone number. The travellers had left from Cap Spartel, a beach close to Tangier, around midnight. They left with an engine, but as the engine stopped working, they threw it away and tried to row instead. At 4.28am we reached the boat, but the call was interrupted as soon as the travellers had told us that they were at sea. For the next days we tried countless times to reach the boat, but it was no longer possible to establish a connection. At 4.32am we called the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) and forwarded the information. They told us that they had already been searching for the boat for an hour with their helicopter, but had not been able to localise it. On Marinetraffic we could track the helicopter and rescue vessels of SM, and could see that they were continuously searching for the boat, which they also confirmed in several calls. At 7.50pm SM informed us that they would stop searching for the boat now, as they had been searching all day without results, and were as well not able to reach the travellers by phone. They also told us that they had informed all vessels in the area, commercial and private, about the distress case. At 8.59pm we called the Moroccan Navy, who told us that they hadn’t found any boats that day, but took the information we had and promised to try to call the boat. At 10pm we sent another email to SM asking them kindly to recommence the search for the boat, as we were very worried that the travellers were still adrift. At 10.05pm we called the Moroccan Navy again. This time they informed us that they had been searching for the boat all day, and that they would continue the mission the following morning and let us know if they had any news. At 11.05am the following day we called the Moroccan Navy again, and they informed us that they had rescued five travellers close to Cap Spartel. We called SM to pass on this information, but because of the winds and currents at the time, SM thought it very unlikely that this was concerning the same case. We therefore sent another email to SM urging them to recommence the search for the boat.
Later that day we discover a tweet by the Spanish activist Helena Maleno from 2.05pm, stating that the lost travellers had been rescued by local fishermen. This information was shortly after confirmed by our contact person. The contact person got in touch with the travellers after they returned to Tangier, and could later inform us that the five people were part of a group of 11, but that six of them had been arrested by the Moroccan military before departing. Whilst they were drifting, a woman on the boat got very sick, and the phone got wet, which was why they were not able to contact anyone. After the fishermen had rescued them and taken them back to Morocco, they had all spent a day in the hospital. They are now all fine, but very tired.
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Layers »
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans

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