June 02, 2016

With the improved weather conditions, boats filled with migrants are again rushing to Mediterranean shores. To their rescue, is a vessel accustomed to rescue operations: the Bourbon Argos. On board are 17 BOURBON crew members and 10 Doctors Without Borders personnel. Captain Ruslan Voznyuk explains.

OFFshore: How is the resumption of Mediterranean rescue operations going?

Ruslan Voznyuk: We knew that they would resume with the more favorable weather conditions. We prepared physically and mentally for a few weeks before the resumption of operations, starting in the beginning of May...

OFFshore: How is the crew aboard the Bourbon Argos handling this resumption of operations?

R.V.: All our seafarers are willing and driven by a single conviction: no one should die at sea. Solid and experienced, they have all the necessary technical and human qualities to meet the challenge. Proof: in 2015, we rescued 12,000 migrants. We are determined to continue our efforts to save as many people as possible.

"All our seafarers are willing and driven by a single conviction: no one should die at sea. In 2015, we rescued 12.000 migrants."
ruslan voznyukcaptain, bourbon argos

OFFshore: What is the overall mindset? Did last year's operations help you to better handle these situations, or is it still just as difficult to be confronted by such tragedy?

R.V.: We understand the helplessness of these migrants, who are fleeing their country, in Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, looking for a better life...Unfortunately, most of the time, they are completely unaware of what awaits them aboard their makeshift vessels. For our teams, keeping calm and focused is essential for rescuing them, comforting them, and also for reacting when faced with different situations.

Usually, we have to deal with vessels cobbled together from rubber or wood, but we can also find ourselves up against extremely fragile, old fishing vessels... Not to mention the often high numbers of people on board--men women, children. In short, despite what you may imagine, no two rescue operations are alike. Over the course of our missions, we are always learning more and strengthening our know-how and capacity for intervention.

OFFshore: One rescue operation has already taken place, just a week after the resumption of operations. Could you tell us about it?

R.V.: Our vessel arrived in the rescue zone on May 5, at 11 a.m. At 6:30 the next morning, we received a call from the MRCC in Rome, giving us the approximate position of a vessel of migrants coming from Libya. At 12:55, visual contact was established with a jam-packed craft made of rubber. The weather was starting to deteriorate. When our rigid-hulled inflatable boat took up position near them, we realized that the craft was deflating. We handed out life vests and transferred the migrants to the Bourbon Argos as quickly as possible. All were rescued, including 87 men, 28 women, and 6 children.
The expertise and professionalism of the crew and the MSF teams, combined with the excellent maneuverability of the Bourbon Argos, helped make this operation a success.

"We handed out life vests and transferred the migrants to the Bourbon Argos as quickly as possible. All were rescued, including 87 men, 28 women, and 6 children."
ruslan voznyukcaptain, bourbon argos

OFFshore: What is your relationship with Doctors Without Borders? What are the roles of each entity in the context of a seagoing rescue mission?

R.V.: After a 1st evaluation of the migrants' condition by the crew on the inflatable boat, the seafarers and MSF teams take over on board the Bourbon Argos to welcome them, comfort them, and care for the injured. When they can't board the vessel on their own, we place them on stretchers and transfer them by crane. Once the passengers are safe and cared for on the Bourbon Argos, they are transferred to an Italian naval vessel.
On land as well as at sea, we have professional, warm relations with MSF. Onboard, these teams are a true example of humanity. Furthermore, when it is a question of conducting a rescue operation at sea, BOURBON and MSF form a single family. Without that, we could not conduct such a mission together.

"When it is a question of conducting a rescue operation at sea, BOURBON and MSF form a single family. Without that, we could not conduct such a mission"
ruslan voznyukcaptain, bourbon argos

 

Bourbon behind the scenes