SIU Crews Come to the Rescue, Twice


September 2014


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Two Seafarers-crewed ships 8,400 miles apart recently rescued 12 individuals from disabled vessels, and a third SIU-crewed ship assisted in the aftermath of one of the operations.


Members of the SIU Government Services Division aboard the USNS Richard E. Byrd on July 28 rescued nine mariners whose Yemeni-flagged cargo ship (the Al Saed-1) had lost power and was adrift in the Gulf of Oman. With the Al Saed-1 taking on water, the foreign mariners abandoned ship and embarked in a life raft – but not before sending a call for help.


The Byrd was the first ship to respond to the distress signal, and rescued the Yemeni sailors around 9 a.m. local time. They were subsequently evaluated by the Byrd’s medical staff, and no injuries were reported.


One of the Byrd’s sister ships, the Seafarers-crewed USNS Amelia Earhart, then picked up the Al Saed-1 crew and transported them back to Yemen.


Vice Adm. John W. Miller, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, commended the crew for their actions in the rescue.


“Well done to the crew of USNS Richard E Byrd for expertly rendering assistance to MV Al Saed-1,” said Miller. “Your efforts exemplify the U.S. Navy’s commitment to the safety of all mariners. You can be justifiably proud of your efforts and teamwork.”


Less than two weeks later, the Seafarers- crewed Matson ship MV Manukai saved three people from a sailboat that had been caught in Hurricane Julio, off the coast of Hawaii.


On Aug. 10, the sailboat Walkabout sent a distress call that was detected by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center in Texas, who notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu. When the distress call came in, winds were averaging more than 100 mph, and the boat’s bilge pump was unable to keep up with the flooding through a missing hatch.


After an aircraft from the National Hurricane Center established radio communications and confirmed the distress call, a Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched to deliver a lifeboat and equipment for combatting the flooding. Due to the weather conditions, the crew of the Walkabout couldn’t reach the supplies.


As a second helicopter was dispatched, the Manukai was diverted to assist the drifting boat. The Seafarers-crewed vessel pulled the three sailors to safety following their ordeal. Rescued were 61-year-old Ben Nealy, 22-year-old Lee Nealy, and 22-year-old Mike Vanway, who had sailed from California. (The Walkabout, dismasted in the hurricane, remained drifting.)


The SIU represents steward department mariners on Matson vessels. Seafarers aboard the Manukai during the rescue included Recertified Steward Karen Fensel, Chief Cook Freddie Castro, and ACU Ricky Williams.


Fensel said the Manukai was approximately 250 miles away when it was notified about the sailboat. When the vessel arrived on the scene the next day, “the seas were too rough and we couldn’t get to the people on the sailboat,” she recalled. “The next morning, they kind of blew into us. We got them to the pilot’s ladder and they were each able to jump from the boat to the ladder. We brought them in and took them to Long Beach (California).”


Fensel said the crew did a great job performing the rescue, and the boaters were predictably grateful.


“Fortunately, we’ve all been trained,” stated Fensel, a frequent upgrader at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center who joined the SIU in 1987. “The people were definitely happy to be on board. It had been pretty harrowing for them. But we fed them and put some clean clothes on them.”

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