Seafarers Help Rescue Syrian Refugees


October 2013


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Maersk Utah Aids Italian Coast Guard Near Sicily


SIU members aboard the Maersk Utah helped with an overnight rescue of 83 Syrian refugees in August after receiving a call regarding a boat in distress off the coast of Sicily.


According to published reports, the Utah was traveling about 70 nautical miles out from Cape Passero, Sicily, on Aug. 9 when the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome issued a call to the vessel about a boat in distress. The Utah then altered its course and increased its speed to reach the distressed boat prior to nightfall.


“At 2016 (8:16 p.m.), with daylight rapidly falling and wind increasing to a force 5 (18-25 mph), the small craft was visually spotted about 5 (nautical miles) away,” read the captain’s report. “The Utah approached the craft and stopped alongside at 2033 (8:33 p.m.). At this time it became clear that the boat, approximately 15 meters (49 feet) long, was carrying many people of various ages, gender and physical condition.”


The Utah then approached the craft and was positioned to protect the distressed boat from the increasing wind and waves. The 984-foot Utah then sheltered the small boat for five hours while crews from the Italian Coast Guard were sent to the scene from Sicily. The crew of the Utah was told by Italian authorities not to attempt a rescue of their own unless the lives of the refugees aboard the boat were in immediate danger.


By 1:28 a.m. on Aug. 10 the first Coast Guard vessel was spotted and guided to the refugees’ boat with the help of the Utah’s searchlights. Unfortunately, the state of the sea and the small size of the Italian Coast Guard vessel prevented the rescue operation from proceeding from there.


The Utah was then instructed to provide shelter to the Italian boat as well and await the arrival of a larger Italian rescue vessel. That larger craft arrived on the scene around 3:54 a.m. and immediately began the rescue operation.


By 10 a.m. the Utah’s rescue work was done and the vessel was released to continue its voyage to Algeciras, Spain.


“It was a long night, but the reward at the end was very satisfying,” said Chief Mate Joe Single, a member of the Seafarers- affiliated American Maritime Officers.


The SIU members aboard the Utah included: Bosun Herbert Charles, ABs Antonio Arizala, Orlando Dacruz, Edgardo Opao and Victor Valencia, QEE Gregory Johns, QE4 Gerardo Vega, GUDE Paul Moss, Steward/Baker Abraham Martinez- Rochez, Chief Cook Manes Sainvil and SA Timoteo Nunez.



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