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Friday, 17 April 2015

The risk for refugees in the Mediterranean so high it is intolerable

I had to do some basic calculations on the societal risk in the Mediterranean for the refugees and compare it with the risk for seafarers off Somalia 2011 as a result of piracy. The risk in the Mediterranean is off the chart and according to IMO standard so high that it has to be reduced!
An FN-diagram showing the the number of deaths in the Mediterranean today
(2015) and off Somalia 2011. Both risks are intolerable, but only the risk
for the refugees is off the chart.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A valid need for increasing SAR resources in the Mediterranean

One of yesterday’s conversations in my head:
- How can you have a blog called ”Risky business at sea” and not write about the horrible conditions for boat refugees in the Mediterranean trying to get from Africa or Asia to Europe (or into EU)?
- I can’t and I’ve avoided it for too long.
- Why is that?
- The explanation is that it is a complicated problem. However, that isn’t a valid excuse!

So here we go:
This far 2015 (mid-April) reports (UNHCR) talked about 900 persons drowned or missing from these transports, for the same period 2014 the estimation was 47 persons! The explanation for this increase is reported to be the result of several changes since last year including the war Syria and further destabilization of several African countries south of the Sahara.

The direct cause of these deaths is the state of the ships used and how they are overloaded by refugees. However, that is because no one takes responsibility for the voyages and that people are willing to take great risks in order to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The long term solution therefore, off course, lies in reducing the need for crossing the Mediterranean. That is however not a simple task (and out of the scope for this blog). However, in the meantime we know that many boats and ships (as a result of the risks taken by the refugees and criminal acts by the people organizing the human trafficking) will capsize and or sink in the Mediterranean without the possibility to send out a distress call.

Do these seafarers, because they also are refugees, have less right to be expecting rescue than others? NO, but at the same time any seafarer cannot expect to be rescued instantly anywhere in the world. What you can expect depends on where you are, but it shouldn’t depend on who you are. Does that mean that we should relocate Europe’s Search and Rescue (SAR) resources to the Mediterranean Sea and these refugees in distress? We would probably save more people that way because nowhere else is the need for rescue as great. However, relocating all resources to one area is not possible (logistically, but also) as all nations have a responsibility for they their waters that cannot be left unattended. So even though relocating all SAR resources to the Mediterranean Sea would give the most bang for the buck it isn’t possible.

The EU replacement for the Italian Mare Nostrum, the Frontex Plus/Trition, is given reasoning above the right type of solution. However, it is unfortunately under equipped and under financed given the need.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Humans are awesome!

In November 2014 I was quoted by “Gotlands Tidningar” (a small Swedish newspaper) saying that I was skeptic to unmanned cargo ships. I am, but I also know that there are a lot of (simple) activities at sea that can be solved with unmanned or even autonomous systems (for example unmanned submarines for civilian or military purposes). An autopilot is a simple thing solving a simple task, the problem arises when the wrong pipe rapture in the middle of the Atlantic because no one was there to see the sign before it was too late. With no one onboard such a small break-down suddenly becomes a big problem. 
Fixing a leaking pipe with a soda can, no
big problem for a human!
 I like to argue that making ships insensitive to small break-downs is much more expensive (in regard to investments, fuel and maintenance) than keeping the crews onboard.
Now, when watching ”People are awesome” videos on Internet I would like to be able to say “I rest my case”. Because, after seeing for example how a person can sail and tack a foiling moth in rough seas it is for me obvious that humans’ ability to react to sensory information and adapt actions is second to none.
The problem is that too many still fail to see this and talk about drones and autonomous systems like it is some kind of solution. At least at sea the tasks are too complex to be defined in advance and implemented into a computer.