An independent maritime human rights charity, Human Rights at Sea has published the first voluntary NGO minimum standard guidance. The aim is to work towards increased levels of joint co-ordination and co-operation for the on-going humanitarian relief effort in the Mediterranean region and in close co-ordination with established rescue coordination centres, other state and non-state actors.

The first edition of the document, titled a ‘Voluntary Code of Conduct for Search and Rescue Operations undertaken by civil society Non-Governmental Organisations in the Mediterranean Sea’, is intended to act as the basis for rapid and frequentative development with as many maritime sectors as possible. Taking input from other NGOs, the publication is based on established humanitarian principles, existing search and rescue convention, applicable international law and international search and rescue guidance from the International Maritime Rescue Federation.

The new publication puts down a marker and provides a starting point for a more comprehensive approach between NGOs in rescuing migrants and refugees at sea. It also seeks to provide increased transparency for understanding the actions of civil society NGOs by other parties.

“With the unprecedented mass movement of people towards Europe, co-ordination at every level is critical to acting effectively and also protecting fundamental rights using a comprehensive approach to tackle this generational issue,” explains David Hammond, CEO of Human Rights at Sea. “This new voluntary guidance is aimed at getting people around the table, stopping unhelpful distractions by attacks towards civil society NGOs and promoting effective co-operation between all state and non-state actors.”

With such issues becoming increasingly relevant to yachts cruising in the Mediterranean, the document makes for interesting reading before the Med season begins for any captain, crew or yacht manager wishing to be prepared for the eventuality of having to undertake a rescue operation.

Freely available copies may be downloaded from the Human Rights at Sea publications page here.

Image credit: Judith Buthe