The Norwegian government has finally settled on a rescue vessel that will be chartered and sent to the Mediterranean, by June 1. The vessel will help with both border control and rescue efforts tied to boat refugees from North Africa and the Middle East who are trying to flee to Europe.
The government confirmed that it had selected the Siem Pilot, a supply ship normally used in offshore operations, as Norway’s contribution to the EU’s Triton operation. The vessel is owned by Siem Offshore and can accommodate as many as 500 refugees on board if the need arises.
Norwegian ships took part in as many as 40 rescue operations last year, simply because they were in the area when distress signals went out or when they spotted refugees adrift. Now the state is getting formally involved, sending both Norwegian police and military personnel to help the Siem Pilot crew when encountering boat refugees.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg had promised aid to Italy’s own refugee rescue efforts but it was slow to come. Her government agreed again to offer aid after the drownings of hundreds of refugees so far this year but initially said no vessel would be available until August. Public outcry at home prompted Solberg to speed up efforts, resulting in the charter of the Siem Pilot from this month.