The crew of the MV Green Lake, including SIU members sailing aboard the Central Gulf Lines-operated vessel, sprang into action on New Year’s Eve, using their rescue training to save lives in the Pacific Ocean.
The Green Lake was the first vessel to respond to a Coast Guard alert from the Panamanian-flagged Sincerity Ace, a 2009- built car carrier sailing from Yokohama to Hawaii. The master had reported a serious vessel fire, ongoing firefighting efforts and the intent to abandon ship approximately 1,800 nautical miles northwest of Oahu.
The crew and officers of the Green Lake spent the next 18 hours battling poor weather conditions as they rescued seven mariners and searched for the missing. They were joined in the search efforts by three other merchant ships, as well as a U.S. Coast Guard Hercules HC-130 aircraft and a Navy 7th Fleet P-8 Poseidon.
In total, the crews of the merchant vessels that responded to the disaster rescued 16 members of the Sincerity Ace’s crew. Five were not recovered, after a total of 13 searches covering 5,544 nautical square miles were conducted over a span of three days.
The SIU crew of the MV Green Lake included Bosun Isaac Amissah, ABs Nicolas Bernardo Bartolome, Robert Calvo, Paul Gottschling, John Rawlings and Ted Thompson, OMUs Godofredo Manding Banatao and Mario Santos, Steward/Baker Peter Schuetz, Chief Cook Jose Felipe, and SA Jolanta Goch. All of them have completed training at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center, located in Piney Point, Maryland.
The deck officers aboard the Green Lake are members of the MM&P, and the engineers are represented by the MEBA.
Bosun Amissah retold the event, saying, “We had left Yokohama maybe three days before, when we got the alert that a ship was on fire. When we got to the scene, the crew were spread out over the water, in life jackets.”
He explained that the Green Lake retrieved seven men from the ocean, bringing them into warm areas on the ship to rest and recover: “By the time we pulled them out of the water, they were so tired. They’d been in the water for maybe eight hours by that point, so they needed to rest and warm up.”
“Our training helped a lot,” he concluded, “especially the man-overboard drills. We’d be picking up one guy out of the water here, then the next guy would be three miles away, they were so spread out. Our training was really important in saving those seven lives.”
“The entire crew did a truly incredible job under extreme conditions,” said Capt. William Boyce. “Winds were blowing a steady 25 knots, gusting to 30 knots, with a heavy 20-25-foot north-westerly swell. Due to the sea state and our high freeboard, it was very difficult to maneuver, bring the ship alongside each survivor, and get them on board with limited retrieval resources.”
Boyce continued, praising the work of his crew: “MEBA Chief Engineer Joseph Tierney, First Engineer Shauna Glasser, Second Engineer Zac Pollock and Third Engineer Maria Asuncion assisted in retrieval and constant maneuvering for 18 straight hours. The entire SIU deck crew and bosun worked tirelessly from 0200 to 2000 to get the exhausted survivors on board.
“The crew showed incredible perseverance, teamwork and determination,” he concluded, “constantly improvising with each survivor’s recovery in very difficult and dangerous conditions. I am proud of each and every one of this crew for saving seven souls that had experienced horrific conditions and were exhausted.”
“We are very grateful for the assistance the crews of these vessels have given during the search and rescue efforts,” said a spokesperson for the Coast Guard. “These crew members went out of their way to aid their fellow mariners, and because of the remoteness of the incident, the outcome may have been very different had they not responded.”
The Green Lake diverted to Honolulu to disembark the survivors once the search for additional survivors was called off. At last report, the Sincerity Ace was being towed to Japan.