“Like a spy movie!” : blockades, blackmail… the surreal humanitarian mission of SEA Medics

“Like a spy movie!” : blockades, blackmail… the surreal humanitarian mission of SEA Medics

On Sunday March 17, the SEA Medics sailboat returned to Sète from a humanitarian mission in Ukraine. Story of the journey.

On January 29, five crew members from the SEA Medics association set sail from Sète. Heading towards Constanta in Romania to bring 10 m3 of clothes, toys, medical equipment… before then transporting them to Odessa in Ukraine. Having since returned to the singular island, Erick Coll, sailor and president of the association, underlines "the success of this first humanitarian mission", while recognizing "a succession of unforeseen events".

Monitored by customs

Unforeseen events that occurred on the first day. "We left, then turned around. The cargo was not properly secured. We were generally missing a day of organization", recalls the skipper.

Despite this false start, the SEA Medics finally set sail for twenty days at sea. The sailboat, in the name of the association, was chosen for its speed and the environmental benefits it brings. . "Apart from an engine failure, everything went well on the way out. But once we arrived in Constanta on February 21, we underwent checks by customs, the coast guard and the police. A customs officer also blackmailed us, he says, with a smile on his face. He wanted to make money off our backs. The atmosphere was heavy. Then, after five days at the dock and being monitored, a manager fixed the situation."

The question of delivery

However, the crew was only at the beginning of its surprises. Of the three associations with which SEA Medics was to collaborate to send the goods to Ukraine, none was able to cross the border with Romania, the rules having recently become stricter. It is therefore impossible to go to Odessa.

Also read: War in Ukraine: change of program for the SEA Medics humanitarian mission arriving in Romania

It was time to do something about it. "Finally, the French embassy put us in touch with a first association and the situation got better. We entrusted the goods to a second. The latter is currently taking medical equipment to a hospital in Izmail, Ukraine. The toys were directed to a school in the city… These institutions will then redistribute them within the country." A bit disappointed, Erick Coll would have liked to go to Ukraine, but "is satisfied" with the fallback solution.

Heated feedback

The funny adventure in Constanta ends after 10 days. Fatigue, lack of experience and tensions are felt, and three of the five volunteers decline the return trip to the deck of the sailboat. Without foreseeing it, they avoid the worst. Accompanied by his skipper friend Alessandro, Erick Coll is boarded in international waters.

"We saw a helicopter, the Romanian and Bulgarian coast guards arriving. They took us back to Romania. Proceedings were initiated against us for refusal to comply and hit and run, while we were simply returning to France,says the sailor, still stunned. I underwent two hours of interrogation. It felt like we were in a spy film. We were constantly watched."

Luckily for them, "the French embassy resolves the situation with a phone call". After After the charges were dropped, the two men were able to return to sea and return to Sète on March 17. Finally!

What results for the mission ?

Despite; the mountain of problems and unexpected events, SEA Medics has managed to solve the problem. fulfill its initial mission: send humanitarian aid to Ukraine. For this reason, Erick Coll draws a positive assessment of the experience: "It’is also a success from an environmental point of view. When a cargo ship takes three months to get to Ukraine, we did it in 2-3 weeks. We don't pollute and we're faster. This is proof that the sailboat is a future solution for sending humanitarian aid."

The ambition clearly stated by the association is to continue its missions, "qu’il s& ;rsquo;acts as freight (cargo) or emergency (transporting doctors)". Always &agrav; positive, the sailor could only sadly note the ecological disaster in the sea: & quot;There were lots of oil slicks. The lines of cargo boats were endless. Çit was scary. We really have to do something for the planet, otherwise we'll run straight to the next level. the catastrophe."

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