Ocean Viking rescue ship gets authorization to dock at Italian port

Photo: AP Staffers distribute food on the Ocean Viking to migrants rescue in the Mediterranean Sea on 5 July 2021.

The Ocean Viking rescue ship has been granted authorization to dock at the Italian port of Augusta after days of seeking a safe harbour, the organization announced late on Thursday. Earlier, the crew of the vessel had described deteriorating conditions on board the ship, which is carrying more than 570 migrants on board, dpa reported. "The situation is beyond imagination. Tensions and exhaustion are at a peak on board the Ocean Viking," Luisa Albera, search and rescue coordinator on the ship, said in a statement.

Over the past days, the boat carried out six rescue missions to save the migrants whose boats had run into distress in Maltese and Libyan waters, according to the SOS Mediterranee organization which runs the vessel. Over 180 of the people rescued are minors, the organization said. Many of the migrants were seasick, it said. On Wednesday evening, a man "in acute psychological distress" jumped off deck and had to be rescued, according to the statement.

Many people were exposed to the blazing sun on deck, and food rations were set to run out by Friday, Albera warned.

The Ocean Viking has recently been the only ship among several private organizations operating rescue missions at sea, as other vessels were held at port or preparing for future missions.

A number of private vessels have set out to rescue migrants who often travel in rubber boats from Libya or Tunisia to try to reach the European Union.

According to the United Nations, more than 740 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean this year.

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