The 27 migrants held aboard a Maersk Tankers ship for over a month have disembarked for a vessel run by a rescue organisation.

The Danish shipowner said on Friday that the migrants had left an increasingly dire situation aboard the 36,900-dwt Maersk Etienne (built 2014) for Mediterranea Saving Humans' Mare Jonio.

"The captain and crew of the Maersk Etienne have honourably fulfilled their duty at sea, and we are proud and greatly appreciative of their efforts," Maersk Tankers said in a statement.

Mediterranea Saving Humans said in a tweet that its medical team "found the [migrants] in serious pycho-physical conditions that make it impossible for them to stay on the petrol tanker".

"We have already requested from the Malta authorities, responsible for this [search and rescue] event on 5th August, to assign a place of safety (POS) as soon as possible, to disembark these people in urgent need of treatment," it tweeted.

On 2 September, Maersk Tankers said the four week detention aboard the tanker was a world record for migrants held aboard a commercial ship.


The company said the migrants — including a pregnant woman and at least one minor — had warned the captain they would jump overboard, before doing so over the weekend.

Three were pulled out of the water by crew members, it said.

Maersk Tankers said on Friday that "minor medical ailments" had become a continuous issue and that some were threatening to go on a hunger strike.

Tommy Thomassen, Chief Technical Officer, Maersk Tankers, said: “We are relieved and grateful. The rescued persons can now finally get the medical care they need and our crew can continue their voyage safely.

"While we are appreciative of the support from Mediterranea in helping us to bring a closure to this unprecedented situation we are at the same time deeply concerned that it has not been possible to find a solution to the situation before now. It has been very difficult for the rescued persons and our crew."


Malta has received criticism for not allowing the migrants to disembark, but the country told the local press that the rescue did not happen in its territorial waters and that the Maersk Etienne was not told to bring it the migrants.

Maersk Tankers said the Maersk Etienne will proceed to a "suitable port" where it will debrief the crew and provide any care they may need.

Mediterranea Saving Humans describes itself as a "non governmental action", rather than a traditional non-governmental organisation (NGO), made up "of different initiatives of civil society ... after the [NGOs] have been forced to leave in consequence of being criminalised by political rhetoric".

In June, the group said it rescued 67 people from a boat drifting nearly 48.5km offshore the Italian island of Lampedusa.