The emergencies attended by the coordination centres of Maritime Rescue in Tarifa and Algeciras related to recreational boats have experienced a significant decrease this summer. The period between June 15 and September 15, the time-frame Sasemar sets for its campaign on this type of boats, left 269 people and 97 boats attended to in the region this year.
In two years, the coordination centre in Algeciras has seen the most significant reduction in recreational boat emergencies in summer throughout the country. In 2021, the 36 people assisted from 22 boats that reported an emergency were 77.8% more than those in 2023.
Interestingly, the data from Algeciras for 2022 coincides with this summer, with eight people assisted in seven boats.
Regarding the coordination centre in Tarifa, emergencies attended during the summer period have also drastically decreased over two years. In 2021, 462 people were assisted (this figure has decreased by 43.5% in 2023) on 134 boats. Compared to the previous summer, the decrease is 38%—421 people assisted in 114 boats in 2022.
Nationally, Maritime Rescue, under the Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda, attended a total of 3,050 emergencies of all types nationwide between June 15 and September 15, 2023, of which 1,510 (50%) were related to recreational boats throughout Spain. The people affected by accidents in this area amounted to 3,644.
The coordination centre in Tarifa was the fifth in Spain this summer that attended to the most people, 261, on 90 boats attended. Algeciras, on the other hand, was the second centre that attended to the fewest people, eight (only surpassed by Madrid, with 7), and assisted the least number of boats, seven.
The causes of emergencies on recreational boats, nationally, were mainly structural or mechanical failure (78%), grounding or running aground (6%), with the remaining 16% due to various other causes such as fires, lack of information, sinkings, leaks, etc.
Collisions with Orcas
In the Strait area, many incidents of the most common cause, i.e., structural or mechanical failures, occur due to collisions with orcas. Therefore, in 2021, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda (Mitma), through the Maritime Captaincy of Cadiz, under the Directorate-General for Merchant Marine (DGMM), issued a resolution restricting navigation for sailing vessels with a length equal to or less than 15 meters between Cape Trafalgar and Barbate, in an extension of approximately 2 to 9 miles from the coast.
Only between March 27, 2021— the date of the first encounter— and August 5 of that same year, the cetaceans were involved in 56 interactions with small sailboats, causing them to lose the rudder on some occasions. In 25 cases, the services of Maritime Rescue were required to tow to port as many boats affected by the encounters, although not all cases required towing.
In 2023, satellite tracking of these cetaceans has also been established. Approximately 60 individuals living on the Spanish Atlantic coast have been equipped with a location device to try to avoid impacts. Until the end of May of last year, Maritime Rescue assisted and towed 24 sailboats that had problems at sea after encountering orcas in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar. The number almost doubles the fourteen rescues they had to perform throughout 2022 and the thirteen they did in 2021, according to data provided by this organisation, not including episodes where sailboats did not require their assistance.
The relevance of recreational boats in the total emergencies is undeniable, as of the 5,829 vessels assisted last year, 2,826 were recreational boats (48%), 406 were fishing vessels (7%), 508 were merchant ships (9%), and 2,089 (36%) were categorised as others—rafts, floating artefacts, pontoons, etc.
Many of these emergencies could be avoided with good maintenance and the foresight to carry out safety checks before departing. Even today, emergencies still occur that can have fatal consequences for reasons as preventable as running out of fuel at sea, explains Maritime Rescue.
Although the majority of emergencies related to recreational boating focus on the summer period, throughout the rest of the year, Maritime Rescue continues to attend to emergencies of this type.