Going beyond their jobs: Seamen save lives in the Med

  • International press has taken notice of a rescue boat filled with volunteers
  • The crew has committed to rescuing refugees/migrants at sea
  • They are an unlikely group of rescue-mission men and women who have careers of their own but have chosen to do this to help save lives

It was initially just another job for this group of career seamen, but now it has gone beyond that. They are making the world a better place; saving one life at a time.

Aboard the MS Aquarius, as disclosed in an AFP report, these seamen have safely rescued and delivered over 1,500 migrants to Italian ports. They have joined the international search and rescue operation off the coasts of Libya earlier this year and the boat is chartered by medical charity MSF and French non-government organization, SOS Mediterranee.

The Aquarius was initially designed to survey prospective fields for oil from the Arctic to Nigeria. Currently, they are filled with nutrition packs, bottles of water, and life jackets.

“Working only for yourself is not necessarily what makes you proud in this life,” 25-year-old merchant seaman Antoine Laurent, one of the volunteers from SOS Mediterranee, said.

On the other hand, the MSF medical team, though most had never set foot on a boat prior to these missions, have a lot of experience in humanitarian hotspots from Ebola clinics of West Africa to the mountains of Nepal that have been ravaged by earthquakes. Their team consists of a doctor, two nurses, a midwife and two technicians.

“I’ve been involved in long-term projects, I’ve been involved in emergencies. This however is very unique. There are elements of different MSF missions but the fact that you do this on water, with people in flight that have been traveling already quite a bit, and on the doorstep of Europe, makes it very unique,” Dutch doctor Erna Rijnierse who has been with MSF for a decade now, said.

The highlight of the MS Aquarius, however, is in the commitment of the permanent crew – composed of Russians, Ukrainians, a Greek, and several Ghanians. They did not initially target this mission but they have given their hearts and lives to it.

The 45-year-old Belarusian skipper of the boat, Alexander Moroz, said his work has nothing to do really with the boat’s past.

“But my feeling is I am in the right place and that I am doing something good,” he said.

Moroz is the man who takes instructions from Italy’s coastguard and directs the operations of the boat.

AFP asked Moroz if rescue boats such as theirs encourage people who are into human trafficking to send their cargoes to sea, Moroz only has this to say: “The only question is, if we were not here, how many more would die?”

The work of these volunteers is inspiring people to do their part in contributing to making their place a better area to live in.