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Migrant rescue ship Aquarius getting Panama flag

Ship planning to sail on new rescue mission next week

The migrant rescue ship Aquarius is to be registered in Panama after having been warned by Gibraltar that it would be struck off its register.

The ship arrived in Marseille on Monday after leaving Malta where it disembarked a group of rescued migrants last week.

After the notification by Gibraltar’s authorities that the Aquarius would be removed from its registry by August 20, the ship owner applied for a registration with another flag state, said SOS Mediterranee, which operates the vessel. 

"The registration process for the Aquarius to sail under the Panamanian flag has been underway since the 20th of August, but still needs to be formally completed in port." 

"SOS Mediterranee strongly backs this decision, which allows the Aquarius to pursue its life-saving mission at sea."

The vessel is planning to leave Marseille by the end of next week to resume rescue operations in the central Mediterranean, its 44th since February 2016.

The Gibraltar Maritime Administration had put the ship on notice of removal of its registration after it ignored orders to suspend operations as a rescue vessel and revert to its role as a survey ship, as registered.

The ship was twice at the heart of a standoff between Italy and Malta, with both having banned it from their harbours after it rescued migrants.

In both cases, the migrants were eventually brought to Malta after migrant-sharing agreements were reached with other EU countries.  

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