Though not meant as a holiday gift, the selflessness of the SIU-crewed Maersk Kinloss was gratefully received by three adrift individuals one week before Christmas.
On Dec. 18, the Kinloss rescued three fishermen who had been adrift in what appeared to be a large plastic septic tank. They had been clinging to life for almost three weeks in the Arabian Sea following the loss of their fishing boat.
The rescue began after dinner, a few hours before the crew was set to maneuver into Salalah, Oman. The bridge crew spotted the floating tank after one of the stranded fishermen managed to attract their attention with a flashlight. The crew of the Kinloss mobilized to rescue the fishermen before their makeshift vessel capsized.
“I got called by the captain and got down to the gangway,” said Recertified Bosun Rufino Giray. “We saw the plastic canister they were riding…. I rigged the port-side ladder and was in the front of the line to pick them up.”
The SIU members aboard the Kinloss included Bosun Giray, ABs David Fridstrom, Tino Guity, Khaled Mohamed, Miguelito Salada, John Worae and Celso Zuniga, QE4 Cirico Geonanga, QEE Julian Avila, GUDE Solomon Godwin, Steward/Baker Caezar Mercado, Chief Cook Gertrudis Arzu and SA Melvin Ellis.
The containership’s owner and operating company, SIU-contracted Maersk Line, Limited (MLL), informed U.S. Navy Central Command it had rescued the men, who’d been stranded at sea for weeks, according to a Navy news release.
“The rescue,” the statement reads, “is an example of professional mariners rendering assistance to others in distress at sea, a responsibility and mission that we in the U.S. Navy share and take very seriously.” The vessel’s captain noted that the crew of the Kinloss had just practiced a man-overboard/Williamson turn as part of a drill two days before. That refresher came in handy and the crew managed to maneuver the vessel within a few meters of the floating tank as several engineers joined the rescue team on deck.
A life ring was deployed and the fishermen were able to climb the pilot ladder with some assistance. The tank capsized during the rescue, but all three fishermen were successfully rescued. They were medically treated, clothed and fed, and later transferred to the Omani Coast Guard.
MLL Vice President of Labor and Marine Standards Ed Hanley stated, “Rendering assistance to save lives if possible is not only international law and custom of the sea, but it is also the right thing to do. “Sadly, the Iranians said that in the course of being adrift over 19 days, several other ships had stopped, provided them with food and water, but refused to take them aboard. Whether this was to avoid the cost of delays associated with rescue efforts or for other reasons, we can never know.”
Giray concluded, “Helping other people at sea when they get stranded is important. When I saw their faces, they knelt down on deck and were obviously really happy they were still alive. Nineteen days at sea in those conditions is not fun at all…. The ABs that I was working with, they’re professional and they were a big help.”
He also credited the training he received at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education as being a key component to the success of the rescue.