Ship involved in Antarctic rescue faces trouble

Updated 03 January 2014
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Ship involved in Antarctic rescue faces trouble

CANBERRA, Australia: An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic was told to halt its journey home on Friday after concerns that a Chinese vessel involved in the dramatic rescue may also become stuck in the heavy sea ice.
The icebreaker Aurora Australis had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship and carried them to the Aurora.
But on Friday afternoon, the crew of a Chinese icebreaker that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship’s ability to move through the ice. The Aurora — which was carrying the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania — was told to stay in the area in case the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon needs help, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Center, which oversaw the rescue.
The Snow Dragon, which is at the edge of the ice pack surrounding the Russian vessel, will attempt to push through the ice to open water early Saturday, when tidal conditions are most favorable. The Aurora is waiting around 11 kilometers (7 miles) north of the Snow Dragon, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the marine authority.
Authorities have not said what the next step would be if the Snow Dragon became stuck, but it is possible that the Aurora will utilize its ice-breaking capabilities to assist the Chinese vessel.
The maritime authority said the decision to place the Aurora on standby was a precaution and noted there was no danger to anyone on board the Snow Dragon. But it was yet another wrinkle in the highly complex rescue operation of those on board the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which got stuck in the ice on Christmas Eve.
A spot of clear weather on Thursday finally allowed the multinational rescue operation after blinding snow, strong winds and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time and again.
The twin-rotor helicopter, which is based on the Snow Dragon, took seven hours to carry the scientists and tourists in groups of 12 from the Russian ship to the Aurora. Earlier, the passengers had linked arms and stomped out a landing site in the snow next to the Russian ship for the helicopter.
Helicopter pilot Jia Shuliang told China’s official Xinhua News Agency that he had no way of knowing whether the ice could withstand the helicopter’s weight.
The rescue came in the never-ending daylight of summer after days of failed attempts to reach the vessel.
“I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home,” expedition leader Chris Turney told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the Antarctic.
Sydney resident Joanne Sim, a paying passenger, wept as she boarded the Australian icebreaker. She said the passengers had spent their time watching movies and playing games.
“It really has been an emotional rollercoaster,” she told a reporter from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper who is aboard the ship.


The 22 crew members of the Akademik Shokalskiy stayed with the icebound vessel, which is not in any danger and has enough supplies on board to last for weeks. They will wait until the ice surrounding the ship breaks up, which could take several weeks, ASMA Emergency Response Division manager John Young said.
“Only now am I sort of feeling a bit emotional about leaving the Shokalskiy,” Alok Jha, a journalist from The Guardian who is traveling with the Akademik Shokalskiy, said in a video shot before he boarded the helicopter. “The poor old thing is stuck still.”
The cost of the rescue would be carried by the owners of the ships and their insurers, in accordance with international conventions on sea rescues, Young said.
Any official inquiry into how the ship got stuck would have to be conducted by Russia, he said.
The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28, got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) south of Hobart, Tasmania. The scientific team on board the Russian vessel had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica.


South Europe summit calls for ‘fair’ migrant distribution

(From L) Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, French President Emmanuel Macron, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pose for a family photo outside the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, after the first 'Southern EU Countries Summit' on June 14, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 min 36 sec ago
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South Europe summit calls for ‘fair’ migrant distribution

  • The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday that the vessel’s owners have since been providing those aboard with food and water

VALLETTA/MALTA, TUNIS: Southern European leaders called for a fair distribution of migrants arriving from across the Mediterranean as the latest NGO boat carrying rescued families was denied a safe port by Italy.
The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain said on Friday the EU should “guarantee effective implementation of the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing between member states.”
A joint declaration at the end of the summit in Valletta also said “efforts to break the smugglers’ business model need to be further enhanced, with the aim to also prevent tragic loss of life.”
A day earlier, dozens of migrants rescued in international waters off Tunisia are still stranded 15 days later as authorities refuse to allow the boat carrying them to access a nearby port, the UN said late Friday.
Egyptian tugboat Maridive 601 rescued 75 migrants off the southern Tunisian coast in late May after they embarked from Libya, a key launchpad for sub-Saharan Africans making dangerous bids to reach Europe by sea.
The vessel has been anchored since May 31 off the southern port of Zarzis, where authorities have refused to allow the vessel to dock despite an appeal by the boat’s captain.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday that the vessel’s owners have since been providing those aboard with food and water.
Tunisian officials contacted by AFP refused to comment on the situation, although an Interior Ministry official said last week, on condition of anonymity, that “the migrants want to be welcomed by a European country.”
Humanitarian groups say Tunisia, which has already received several hundred migrants since the start of the year, is reluctant to take on more new arrivals, demanding that they agree to be repatriated before being allowed to enter Tunisian territory.
The IOM said at least 32 unaccompanied minors were on the boat, and offered to help Tunisia host the migrants.

FASTFACT

Dozens of migrants rescued in international waters off Tunisia are still stranded 15 days later.

It added that 10 of those aboard the boat — nine Egyptians and a Moroccan — had expressed interested in returning home.
“We ask for the reinstatement of mechanisms to care for migrants rescued at sea” to prevent similar incidents in the future, said IOM’s Tunisia head Lorena Lando.
In 2018, Tunisian authorities prevented more than 11,400 irregular crossings of the Mediterranean, Interior Minister Hichem Fourati told parliament on Friday.
He said they had also arrested hundreds of people suspected of involvement in people-trafficking.
So far this year, Tunisian forces have intercepted some 428 clandestine migrants, he added.

The wording appeared to target the boats of non-governmental organizations that rescue migrants from the Mediterranean, but which are accused by far-right politicians such as Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini of encouraging human trafficking.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the summit voiced “frustration” that the EU “talks about solidarity without applying it.”
The German-operated Sea Watch 3 NGO rescue vessel is currently off Italy’s southern Lampedusa island with 53 migrants on board who were rescued off the coast of Libya and since denied entry to Italian ports.
Salvini says that the rescue boats prevent the Libyan coast guard from picking up the migrants and returning them to Libya.
“All vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable international laws and not obstruct operations of the Libyan Coast Guard,” the summit statement said.
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and leads the powerful right-wing League party in the coalition, has issued a decree ordering law enforcement authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through Italian waters of such ships.
Salvini has seen his popularity soar in the last year with a hard line against migrants which has included closing ports to rescue vessels.
Sea Watch International on Friday tweeted that its vessel was “still waiting for a port of safety 16 miles off Lampedusa,” calling for people to sign a petition for the migrants to be taken in by German cities.
Salvini said the vessel was now “wandering around the Mediterranean forcing women, men and children into unnecessary suffering.”
Italy and Malta, the closest countries to North Africa, said ahead of the summit that more should be done to stop migrants leaving, including by bolstering the training and resources of the Libyan coast guard.
Rome and Valletta insist on there being a fair distribution of migrants to other EU countries, while countries such as France say migrants should disembark at the closest port and then be voluntarily redistributed around Europe.
More than 12,000 people have died since 2014 trying to flee Libya to Europe by what the UN refugee agency calls the “world’s deadliest sea crossing.”
The seven nations meeting in Malta on Friday represent close to 40 percent of the EU’s population and gross domestic product and half of its coastline, Malta said.