A new ship chartered by NGO SOS Mediterranean and Doctors Without Borders left the French port of Marseille on Sunday night for its first mission to rescue migrants off Libya, AFP journalists noted.
Ocean Viking — the successor to the Aquarius — sailed at 22:00, cheered by SOS Mediterranean staff that remained behind. Visibly moved, they applauded the departure of their colleagues.
The red and white boat — colours of its new Norwegian flag — took over from the Aquarius, which had to abandon its mission in December 2018.
The 69 m long vessel is expected to reach the central Mediterranean, the main area of shipwrecks, in two to three days.
The Mediterranean has become the deadliest maritime route in the world. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 840 people have disappeared there since the beginning of the year, including 576 in the central Mediterranean — not counting the unrecorded shipwrecks.
31 people are aboard the Ocean Viking to rescue persons who are prepared to do anything to flee Libya: 13 people from SOS Mediterranean, of which 9 rescuers, and 9 MSF staff, including a doctor, a midwife, a cultural mediator, plus crew.