The European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s activities have intensified and its tasks increased, and the operational concept of its Maritime Operations is related to the early detection of migrants, contribution to the SAR operation and detection of other cross border crime activities. Migration remains one of the biggest operational activities in 2017.

Concerning the “Operation Triton” of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in 2016, out of all 1629 incidents, 4% involved merchant vessels assistance, while in 2017 out of 470 so far the share is 12%. 

The Chairman of ECSA’s Maritime Security Working Group, Mr. Jakob Paaske Larsen explained that it is really often for merchant ships to be the first to assist with the rescue of migrants, which is fully aligned with the international conventions and this commitment is applaud. However, the lack of appropriate equipment and crew training of these ships, in order to undertake large-scale rescues, is a serious matter.

"Therefore, commercial ships should not become a permanent part of the solution to this problem, the scale of which appear to grow proportionally to the availability of rescue platforms at sea. Within the international legal framework, other and more comprehensive solutions should be considered. For example addressing the root causes of the problem, removing the migrants' incentive to migrate, and containing the problem to the shores", he said.

Mr Larsen also applauded the European Border and Coast Guard Agency for its search and rescue operations.

"The added value of its ongoing operations is important and has ameliorated the pressure on the merchant fleet to a big extent’’ he concluded.

Mr Georgios Vourekas, Head of Sea Border Sector at the Joint Operations Unit underlined that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is ready to debate with all partners in order to find a solution for these challenges.