Further details have been released of the rescue by the crew of Manx-registered bulk carrier ‘Jupiter Bay’ of more than 300 people trying to cross the Mediterranean in two wooden boats.
The 2012-built bulk carrier was en route from Tunis to Gibraltar late last Friday night when it took a call from the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Rome requesting assistance in a search and rescue effort.
Being within an hour’s sailing of the distress, master Captain Shabbir Patla and his Indian crew responded quickly, reaching the rendezvous point by 11.30pm local time.
During the next three hours, Jupiter Bay took on board some 322 men, women, children and infants. Rescuing so many people in the dark proved challenging and required ingenuity from the crew.
Once the refugees were made comfortable on board Jupiter Bay the next challenge for the crew was to provide food, water and other aid before sailing to Pozzallo in Sicily where they were due to arrive on Saturday evening.
To suddenly have an extra 322 mouths to feed on a ship that caters for a crew of 20 soon meant that after a simple breakfast and then rice for lunch, there was not much food left in the provisions stores and fridges.
When the ship arrived at Pozzallo they were required to anchor where they were met by a coastguard cutter carrying two doctors who did medical checks before allowing those on board to disembark onto to another supply ship to transfer them to shore facilities.
Jupiter Bay then resumed its voyage to Gibraltar where much needed stores were taken on board.
The sea between North Africa and Italy is a popular route for migrants seeking new lives in Europe and the Italian Navy has rescued some 5,000 people trying to make the crossing.