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Omni highlights maritime obligations arising from refugee crisis in the Med / Tradewinds, October 2015

A warning that the duty to go to the assistance of refugees in danger on the Mediterranean Sea is a legal obligation has been highlighted in Omni’s protection-and-indemnity (P&I) report.

As an Istanbul-based broker it is no surprise that a crisis close to home is seen as having major implications.

Omni notes that ships are required to assist persons in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found.

Failure to fulfil the obligation set by United Nations (UN) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions can result in a fine or up to two years of imprisonment, according to the broker.

The consequences for shipowners and their vessels of “desperate people crowding into decrepit ships” has alarming and critical consequences, according to Omni.

“The presence of numerous additional persons on board can affect the seaworthiness of the vessel, the refugees may as well become a threat to crew’s health and other concerns, the vessel may have insufficient supplies for the refugees, the search and rescue operation may cause delay for the vessel, causing a sensitive cargo to be affected, and the list goes on,” added the broker.

Omni warns that only expenses that cannot be recovered from another party are covered by a P&I club.

“The most vital amount arising from a search and rescue operation is usually the deviation expenses, which fall under the scope of P&I…. if the deviation is justified and reasonably carried out,” explained the broker.

Omni highlights that only the net loss is covered and there is no compensation for loss of hire as a result of deviation.

The broker also highlights the war risk facing ships trading to troubled areas of the world, citing the 5,100-dwt general cargoship Tuna 1 (built 1997), controlled by the logistics offshoot of Turkish engineering and construction concern Arda Group. The vessel was bombed by Libyan government forces and the third officer killed as it approached a rebel held port in May.

Omni, although Turkish based, has operations in the UK and US, as well as a joint venture in Dubai.