Tayside and Central Scotland

Award for Scottish ship's captain who rescued 907 migrants

Captain Jamie Wilson
Image caption Captain Jamie Wilson took part in nine rescue missions over four days earlier this year

The captain of a merchant ship who helped save 907 refugees from overloaded and unseaworthy boats off the coast of Libya has been honoured.

Jamie Wilson was in charge of a vessel conducting underwater survey work when he took part in nine rescue missions over four days earlier this year.

The Falkirk-born seafarer and his crew gave water, food and lifejackets to migrants before helping them to safety.

Now Captain Wilson has been recognised by the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society.

At the society's Skill and Gallantry Awards, the 36-year-old was praised for leading his team with "immense dedication and professionalism".

Almost 137,000 migrants have fled across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe since the beginning of this year, according to the UNHCR.

An estimated 2,655 men, women and children have died or gone missing during the hazardous crossings in 2017.

Captain Wilson told the BBC Scotland news website that his crew were prepared for the possibility of encountering migrants before arriving in the Mediterranean.

But he admitted: "The sheer numbers were overwhelming.... we never thought we'd come across 907 migrants."

Image caption He said his duty as a captain was "to save lives at sea"

Some of the vessels they came across had no engines, but had been towed out by smugglers and left to drift "in the hope that they would be found".

On one they found a woman who was eight months pregnant.

His ship, Deep Vision, was in the region to check a pipeline between Libya and Sicily when it was called to take part in its first search and rescue operation on 28 January.

Neither Captain Wilson nor his crew had been involved in any previous rescue at sea but he said he could not refuse to help.

'Changed our perspectives'

"As captain, you're bound by law to proceed to help anyone in danger," he said. "There's no grey area for me as captain - you have to go and assist.

"My duty is to save lives at sea."

In that first rescue, they helped 84 men, 23 women and 25 children to safety. They were taken to Italy by a French naval vessel.

But the bodies of two children were under a blanket in the rigid inflatable boat.

The whole experience had a "massive impact" on the whole crew, he said.

"Quite a lot of the crew had young families so that was a really hard on them. It changed a lot of our perspectives on the situation over there."

Over the next four days, they were involved in another eight rescue missions - including six in six hours on 1 February, involving 650 migrants.

Commodore Malcolm Williams, the chief executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, said: "Captain Jamie Wilson led his crew with immense dedication and professionalism exercising high standards of seamanship and upholding the finest traditions of the sea in going to the aid of those in danger."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites