The civil sea rescue organization SOS Humanity will operate the current Sea-Watch 4 as Humanity 1 from August 2022. The ship was acquired two years ago on the initiative of the United4Rescue alliance. Since then, it has been operated by the Sea-Watch organization, which uses it for rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.
“The handover of the Sea-Watch 4 is solidarity in action. It enables SOS Humanity to start operations as quickly as possible. And every further sea rescue operation is a sign of solidarity with people on the move, while the EU has long since said goodbye to rescuing,” says Johannes Bayer, Chairman of the Board of Sea-Watch. “The Sea-Watch 4 symbolizes civil society commitment that has moved many people and rescued almost 1,700 lives. It is essential for us that her success story continues not only in the Mediterranean but also as an alliance ship of United4Rescue,” Bayer continued.
Sea-Watch will continue to be active in the central Mediterranean Sea with the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 and the reconnaissance aircraft Seabird 1 and Seabird 2. Capacities created by the handover will be used to realign operational concepts.
SOS Humanity operated in the SOS Mediterranee alliance from 2015 to 2021, most recently with Ocean Viking. Since 2022, the NGO has been working under a new name and was looking for its own ship.
“Especially today on Europe Day, we would like to remind everyone of our responsibility to actively support all people who have to flee war and persecution – including those fleeing across the Mediterranean.” The Executive Director of SOS Humanity, Maike Röttger, further emphasizes, “Strong alliances like ours are urgently needed to rescue fleeing people from distress at sea because the EU states have not been able to agree on a sea rescue program until today. We thank Sea-Watch for the transfer of the ship and look forward to operating the future Humanity 1 with continued support from United4Rescue.”
The Sea-Watch 4 is a former German research vessel purchased at auction two years ago on the initiative of the civil society alliance United4Rescue. It was subsequently converted into a rescue ship and operated by the sea rescue organization Sea-Watch. The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had initiated the broad-based fundraising campaign under the slogan “We’re sending a ship.” The alliance now includes more than 800 organizations, religious communities, companies, and initiatives.
Since its first departure in August 2020, the ship has been involved in the rescue of nearly 1,700 people in five deployments. In the meantime, the Sea-Watch 4 was detained for months by Italian authorities for political reasons. Most recently, last week, people were rescued from distress at sea and safely transferred aboard the Sea-Watch 4.
“We are very pleased that our alliance ship will continue to operate as Humanity 1. With SOS Humanity, a strong partner comes on board the ship,” says Thies Gundlach, chairman of United4Rescue. “Even in times of the brutal Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, we must not forget the need in the Mediterranean Sea. As long as EU countries let people drown at their external borders, our humanitarian duty is to help. This is what United4Rescue stands for as a broad civil society coalition with our alliance ship.”
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 640 people have already drowned this year in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing. In 2021, more than 2,000 people lost their lives.