Tanalee Smith, a writer for the Associated Press, did what I apparently was too lazy to do myself. Tanalee researched maritime law and dug deeper into the costs of rescuing Abby Sunderland – the focus of my previous two blog posts this month – and while expensive indeed, the tab is not going to Abby or her family.
The final cost of the rescue is not printed in the story, and likely not yet known – but it may easily eclipse $500,000. While Australia has borne the brunt of the cost via multiple aircraft missions, France – via the territory of the Reunion Island – is the one that has handled the diversion of ships to her rescue and to bringing her back to shore once again.
Tanalee’s article points out though that the cost is the responsibility of the rescuers to bear. I’ll reprint several paragraphs of the article here, but I recommend reading the full article at the weblink included below.
‘Many who questioned why Australia and France were footing the bill for an American teenager’s solo quest.
But the countries involved in the rescue effort have brushed off questions about the cost of the rescue and have no plans to seek recompense. Rescues at sea are a no-cost agreement under international conventions regarding maritime search and rescue operations.
“That’s not the way the law works,” Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters on the weekend. “The Australian taxpayer at the end of the day makes a contribution. But we have to put this in context. If there was an Australian lost at sea we would want … every effort to be made to save that person.”
In France, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told an online briefing that Abby’s rescue was an international obligation to help those in distress at sea.
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was first adopted in 1914 in response to the Titanic disaster. Along with mandating the number of lifeboats and the notification of a ship’s routes, it also dictates that any ship in the area of a distress call will divert to assist that ship.’
One of the more interesting things I learned from the story is that Australia’s search-and-rescue region is enormous – 20.4 million square miles – covering nearly a tenth of the Earth’s surface. Yes, even as small as the Earth is in this vast cosmos, we’ve still got a lot of space down here.
And so ends my coverage of a teenager’s failed attempt to sail around the world all by herself.