This month the subject of migrants has been permeating the media’s headlines somewhat less than in the summer months, this is, perhaps, an even better time to offer superyacht captains advice on what to do should he or she find themselves confront with such a situation. Away from the bright lights of sensationalist headlines, it’s important that captains get an accurate understanding of, firstly, what exactly is required of them by law (under SOLAS, you must intervene in this type of situation) and, secondly, the logistics of taking part in a rescue. 

The PYA has produced a set of guidelines. However, for a succinct summary of what captains need to do and consider, we have summed up the advice of David Summerfield of Securewest International, as outlined at the end of September earlier this year at an Acrew seminar.

  • Report the situation to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC). The MRCC will discover who else is in the area and might be able to assist.
  • If a tender is going out to rescue the migrant boat, which superyacht crewmember will be the driver of the tender? How many other crewmembers will accompany the tender driver?
  • Make sure there is a single point of entry to the yacht. Who will be on hand to deal with this? This person needs to be easily identifiable.
  • Record the names (on a USB stick if possible) and hand it over to the relevant authorities once you get assistance. This will make their job much easier.
  • Check there are no weapons on them.
  • Report to MRCC and request additional assistance for the vulnerable (this includes very young, old and ill).
  • Remember to protect your vessel and crew. This means safety glasses and gloves.
  • Where will you put the migrants once on board? Consider security and access to the main points of the vessel.
  • Try and keep families together and remember to consider the cultural implications of keeping men and women together/apart.
  • Lifejackets: what spare ones do you have and what will you do with them?
  • Do you have plasticuffs? These may be necessary.
  • Unfortunately, body bags may also be necessary. Do have these on board?
  • Consider how you would settle internal conflicts, stress and assault – remember these people are in a stressful situation.

And some final words of advice from Summerfield: “If you’re a captain, you need a pre-planned decision guide. We need to understand our environment. Training doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but it will mean your crew will be better prepared.”

Read the PYA's guidelines here.