Doctors without borders and SOS Méditerranée use the ship and have said Panama has withdrawn its registration under the “unconcealed economic and political pressure of the Italian government“.
Operators of the ship appealed to European governments to “allow Aquarius to continue the mission“. They are to confirm to the Panamanian authorities that the objections of the Italian Government are unfounded, and immediately allot a new flag to the ship under which it could sail again.
Panama justified the withdrawal of registration by the fact that the ship “fails to respect international legal procedures“ concerning the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
“While Panama removed a flag from the non-governmental ship Aquarius 2, which is, thus, becoming ´a ghost ship´ again, the Libyan Coast Guard rescued and returned to Libya more than two hundred migrants,“ Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook.
On Sunday, Salvini also denied that the Italians put Panama under pressure. He wrote on social networks that he did not even know what the Panama phone code was.
Aquarius has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since February 2016. After the new Italian government closed the ports for non-profit organizations´ ships, Aquarius was found at the center of diplomatic discussions about where to disembark the migrants. Firstly, the ship sailed under the flag of Gibraltar that took this opportunity away from Aquarius in August. Under the Panamanian flag, the ship changed its name to Aquarius 2.