Open Arms

Written by Jane Catchpole

Written by Jane Catchpole

 If there’s one thing all seafarers can agree on, it’s the shared responsibility to help those in trouble on the water. This is the dedicated mission of Open Arms United with Yachting.

On the opening day of this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, amongst the opulence and fanfare, a moving and thought-provoking event took place to raise awareness of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Guests were welcomed to the Feadship Hospitality Lounge by Schwalgien Yacht Design and Waterproof Consulting, who have collaborated with the Spanish NGO, Open Arms, to form Open Arms United with Yachting (OAUY).

Originating from a sea rescue company with more than 20 years’ experience on the Spanish coasts, Open Arms’ primary mission is to protect the lives of those trying to reach Europe by sea, fleeing from armed conflict, persecution, and poverty. Alongside this, the non-profit organisation aims to educate and inform people on land, so that those who migrate can make decisions with complete freedom and knowledge.

Since its inception, Open Arms has saved over 69,000 lives and helped vulnerable people from over 20 different countries. 

Open Arms first came to the attention of Barcelona based yacht designer, Kirsten Schwalgien and partner Richard Pearce, CEO and co-founder of Barcelona based Waterproof Consulting, after watching the film ‘The Mediterranean: The Law of the Sea’.  Having both reached milestones in their professional careers, they developed a profound sense of responsibility towards society and felt a strong desire to make a positive impact, whilst setting an example for their children to contribute towards a better future. 

Given their extensive experience within the maritime industry, it was only natural that they chose to support an initiative in this field. They reached out to Open Arms and established Open Arms United with Yachting. The pair say that right from the initial meeting they felt an immediate sense of connection and engagement and were deeply moved by the organisation’s transparent approach. 

The core values on which Open Arms was founded serve as a constant moral compass in their tireless endeavours and represent a profound commitment to the protection of fundamental human rights. At the forefront of these is the need for compassion and preservation of human dignity, recognising the inherent worth of every human being, regardless of their background or circumstances. They carry out their work whilst maintaining a non-political stance, focusing solely on humanitarian assistance and safeguarding the lives of those found at sea. 

The Monaco launch event unveiled the first edition of a limited series of artworks instigated by Richard and Kirsten as part of an awareness campaign between OAUY and Barcelona-based artists and students from Instituto Europeo di Design (IED), which serve as a powerful and sobering reminder that there are people fighting for their lives every day on the oceans that we share.

Kirsten Schwalgien stated, “These unique artworks gives us opportunity to raise awareness, tell a story and start a dialogue. We are deeply moved by Open Arms’ work to save and protect the lives of vulnerable families adrift at sea. Recent years have shown the incredible impact yachting has made on the sustainability front, now it’s time to also focus our energies on the major humanitarian crisis.”

Founder and Director of this incredible organisation is Oscar Camps – a Catalan lifeguard and entrepreneur. Having witnessed numerous episodes with migrants during a trip to Greece, he felt compelled to start Open Arms. He came together with a small group of like-minded collaborators, using their life-saving abilities to aid in the rescue of refugees in Lesbos, Greece. Since then, Oscar has remained dedicated and impassioned in his mission to save lives and denounce the injustices that take place, which are still not talked about enough. 

The organisation now has three boats – Open Arms Uno, Opens Arms and sailing yacht Astral, which are crewed by experienced rescuers, doctors and sailors. At 66 metres, Open Arms Uno is one of Europe’s largest maritime rescue ships and was purpose built and designed for large scale sea rescue. With a beam of 15 metres, it can also accommodate emergency helicopter landings. The boat was donated by Enrique Pieyro, president of NGO, Solidaire. The second largest in the fleet is Open Arms – a 50-year-old tugboat, which has saved over 8,000 lives in the Mediterranean to date. When she is not being used for rescue missions, the boat is used for education and awareness projects. In 2016 an Italian entrepreneur heard about the work of Open Arms and donated the sailing boat, Astral, to the cause. In addition to having saved over 17,000 lives, Astral also serves as a training ship in port.

Since OAUY was formed, it has worked to raise awareness and connect with the superyacht industry, demonstrating ways in which the community can offer help and support by creating impactful platforms and networks. They coordinate maintenance days where yacht crews can volunteer their time and skills to help maintain Open Arms’ boats, assisting with engineering maintenance, technical work, and interior detailing. OAUY also organise training sessions, hosted by the Open Arms team, to educate yacht crew on how to react, help and who to call if they encounter a migrant ship in trouble.

Open Arms relies heavily on donations. The funds raised help ensure the safe maintenance of the rescue fleet, equip the boats with necessary life-saving equipment, and provide migrants with ‘welcome packs’ containing essential items. 

During the launch event at Monaco Yacht Show, Richard Pearce commented on their latest campaign, saying, Our friends at Feadship kindly hosted our grand unveiling event and this is exactly the kind of collaboration and interest we’ve witnessed from across the industry in our work with Open Arms so far – together we can start making a real difference.”

With the support of OAUY, Open Arms is doing everything in their power to save refugees in the Mediterranean, but they cannot do it alone. The sea is one and so are we. 

To donate to Open Arms, please use the QR Code below and for more information on how you can get involved with OAUY, follow @openarmswithyachting on Instagram or contact


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