Topaz Responder Saves Refugee Migrants
Topaz Energy and Marine has emerged as an unlikely player in the effort to save refugee migrants risking their lives on the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece’s islands in order to reach Europe.
While Topaz’s new emergency response and rescue vessel, the Topaz Responder, was primarily designed to provide safety support for offshore oil and gas producers, it is presently operating as a search and rescue vessel in the Aegean Sea. Contracted by not-for-profit organization Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), the Responder is playing a crucial role scouring the often treacherous waters of the relatively short (10 – 14 nautical miles) crossing, acting as MOAS’ ‘mothership’ in its Aegean Sea Mission.
The Responder is now integral to the MOAS’ search and rescue efforts as it actively combs the Turkish coastline alongside its two Fast Rescue Daughter Craft, named after Alan and Ghalib Kurdi, the two Syrian toddlers whose deaths prompted global outrage in September last year. On 28 December, the Topaz Responder completed its first mission, rescuing 59 people stranded on two boats following engine problems, two miles from the Greek island of Lesbos. Barely a week later, another group of migrants were shipwrecked and was later rescued off the Greek island of Agathonisias. As winter sets in and the seas get colder and more hostile, the crossing has become much more dangerous but this has not stopped refugees from attempting the crossing. The Responder is expected to remain in the area for another 60 days to continue its search and rescue operations.
The Topaz Responder’s contract with MOAS officially began in December having been formally engaged by the charity’s manager; Tangiers Maritime Limited. MOAS is one of six charities chosen as the beneficiaries of an appeal by UK publication The Guardian and Observer.
The Responder’s New Role
The Responder, a newly-built Emergency Response and Recovery Vessel, was added to the Topaz fleet in May 2015. Providing a 300-berth capacity with fully-equipped medical treatment and recovery facilities, firefighting capability and two 15-man fast rapid deployment craft that can be launched within 60 seconds, the Responder is the key vessel in MOAS’ Aegean Sea Mission.
As a search and rescue boat, the Responder patrols the sea ready to respond to urgent calls from the Greek Coast guard patrols. Once on the scene, the Responder can accommodate up to 300 passengers and address any urgent medical needs in the on-board hospital on the way to bringing its passengers back safely to shore.