Saving Migrant´s Lives at Sea: Improving Search and Rescue Operations

Zoom Research Seminar

Past event — 2 December 2020

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Vasileios Kosmas, PhD

Program Manager Decarbonisation

Carnival Maritime GmbH

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Authors: Vasileios Kosmas, Michele Acciaro and Maria Besiou

Globally speaking, drowning is the single largest cause of death for migrants. This study focuses on the Mediterranean Sea migration crisis, investigating the effectiveness of search and rescue (SAR) operations alongside measures to reduce the number of deaths of migrants at sea. To this end, the study describes the stakeholders involved in SAR activities. The paper first analyzes secondary data and 24 in-depth interviews in order to develop an analytical framework, which is then complemented by a system dynamics model in order to explore the complexity and interactions among stakeholders in SAR operations. The study shows that the death toll at sea can be reduced by enhancing cooperation among stakeholders and engaging in more effective migrant detection and interception at sea. The study also shows that the development of alternative legal migration pathways might require supplementary SAR resources, so as to effectively minimize the number of migrant deaths at sea. Furthermore, the analysis confirms that increased SAR operational effectiveness does not act as a pull factor to migration.

Keywords: Operational effectiveness, migration by sea, search and rescue, Mediterranean Sea.


Dr. Vasileios Kosmas is a postdoctoral researcher at the Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL) of Kühne Logistics University. His current work focuses mainly on the uptake of green technologies and alternative fuels within the maritime transport industry. Particularly he is the lead researcher of the “Policy and viable business” work package of the WASP project which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Among other, he is responsible for constructing viable WASP business case models and exploring the economic implications of such technologies on the shipping industry. Furthermore, Dr. Kosmas has been one of the lead investigators of the “Feasibility study and support for missing data for maritime sector technical specifications”. In general, his interdisciplinary work ranges from the examination of various measures (e.g. policies, technologies) regards the enhancement of the energy efficiency profile of the shipping sector to improving search and rescue operations within the context of migration.

Dr. Kosmas holds a Ph.D. diploma in Operations Management from Copenhagen Business School. Additionally, he holds a MSc degree in Maritime Transport with Management from Newcastle University—the degree and thesis were awarded with distinction—and a BSc degree in Economics from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Last but not least, Dr. Kosmas is a member of the International Association of Maritime Economists and acts also as a reviewer for international scientific transportation journals.



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Bärbel Wegener

Assistant to Resident Faculty