The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) command center answered a distress call from the owner of the Indian-flagged merchant vessel Kayana
, after the ship sank off the coast of Somalia, June 22.
Lt. j.g. Brad Fancher, NAVCENT’s watch commander at the time, received the call. He then set in motion the chain of events that led to the safe rescue of Kayana’s 18 crew members.
“I called the Rescue Coordination Center [RCC] in Falmouth
, England, because they coordinate most rescue operations around the world,” said Fancher, a native of Lumberton, Texas.
After the vessel sank, Kayana’s crew members were stranded on a solitary lifeboat. However it, too, began to sink, making efforts to retrieve the crew even more urgent.
The RCC tracks the location of military and commercial vessels via global positioning satellites (GPS). With the help of RCC, Fancher was able to coordinate assistance to the distressed crew. Within two hours, four civilian vessels were steaming toward the GPS coordinates.
“Once we were able to contact these ships, they began searching for Kayana’s lifeboat,” said Fancher.
Several hours later, the Norwegian motor vessel Jo Betula spotted a flare from the lifeboat and arrived on scene in time to rescue the crew.
“We had looked at bringing two coalition ships to assist the casualty, but they were both 300 to 400 miles away,” said Cmdr. Wade Schmidt, NAVCENT’s operations officer, “so we opted to go with the civilian vessels.”
Schmidt, a Seattle native, said he was proud of Fancher's quick coordination, which may have saved numerous lives. “He handled almost the whole thing by himself, said Schmidt. “He’s one of my best watch commanders.”
NAVCENT, along with U.S. and coalition forces, conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters. U.S. and coalition forces have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress, providing medical assistance, engineering assistance, and search and rescue.
Source: By Journalist 2nd Class Abraham Essenmacher, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs