Although we have thankfully never encountered an actual case of an armed human trafficker onboard a migrant boat, it is a security concern that we have to take into consideration. Crew are instructed to keep a lookout and search all as they board. The one entrance to the crew accommodation is keypad locked and continuously guarded by crew with radio contact to the bridge.
Crew have performed well in the face of crisis
Captain Lewington says that because migrants embark in a dehydrated state, water is the first priority, and all crew save empty water bottles and keep a large stock of bottled water in readiness.
He adds: “On the rescues, my cook and steward have done an incredible job of providing Muslim food for all over a period of two days, generally served on deck by the crew. I have observed inexperience crew exhibit excellent crowd control on the go, and they are firm but compassionate. Some even provide suggestions, such as identifying a leader among the migrants and having him wear a labelled tabard for easier communication. My crew have also given their own clothes to migrants who may be inadequately dressed.”
According to Maersk Line Marine HR, all crew are trained in standard search and rescue drills annually, but there is no specific training for extreme situations such as these where hundreds of people are involved. Because of its route and higher chances of encountering rescues, the Maersk Regensburg conducts its own regular drills on-board.
Marine HR confirms that counselling is available for sea-farers, given the trauma that some may encounter in such distressing situations, but so far “none has been requested”.
Says Captain Lewington: “Initially at the briefing meetings, health and safety concerns are raised by the crew, but as we demonstrate we have an action plan in place which has been tried and tested, we increase their confidence.”
He concludes: “After disembarkation of the migrants, all crew are fatigued and relieved , but we also have a great sense of pride in the task achieved.”