The rescue ship has been blocked at the port of Marseilles in France since September, as it could not find a country to register its trips to the Mediterranean. The vessel was flying the Panama-flag, but the Panama Maritime Authority has revoked the registration.

Following this, in November, Italy ordered the seizure of the migrant rescue vessel 'Aquarius', after accusing the Doctors without Borders (MSF) of illegally dumping toxic waste in south Italy.

According to local news, investigators suspect that the vessel passed off 24 tonnes of potentially toxic waste as ordinary waste.


The termination of the operation, according to the press release by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is the result of a sustained campaign that the Italian government is leading and it is backed by other European states.

This is a dark day. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.

Nelke Manders, MSF’s general director stated in the press release.

According to MSF, the vessel was working in full compliance with authorities but the Aquarius was twice stripped of its registration earlier this year and now faces allegations of criminal activity.

Furthermore, MSF points out that this forced end to the Aquarius’ operations happens at a critical time. An estimated 2,133 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2018, with departures from Libya accounting for most deaths.